The economic outlook in early 2013 is much brighter in the US than in years past, but uncertainty remains. With ongoing European debt crisis and the fallout from the latest recession still fresh on the mind, companies are still wary of spending and hesitant to let their guard down. This means that the General Counsel’s office is not seeing significant staff size increases, and while resources seem to be at least remaining constant, the constant introduction of new regulation and legislation combined with expected increases in litigation means that more will be asked of the corporate legal department over the coming year.
In a recent survey of Corporate Counsel’s Agenda for 2013 from ALM Legal Intelligence, Chief Legal Officers and General Counsel indicated that doing more with fewer resources is their top concern for the coming year. As corporate legal continues to take on the role of partner and trusted advisor to the business, GCs worry about whether they have the appropriate amount of support to be able to react and respond to constantly varying needs. Those same respondents also categorically believe that workload levels will at minimum stay level and most likely increase in 2013 as other parts of the business require legal services as companies take advantage of the warming economic climate. This all comes along with the constant, ongoing challenge that law departments face to look for additional ways to reduce external spend by keeping more work in-house.
What are leaders within corporate legal to do to meet these challenges head on? One key strategic area will be implementing and refining workflow management, automating as many routine processes as possible and finding operational inefficiencies that be turned around. Drilling down to find those areas that are causing the biggest burden on your staff and altering or replacing them with more proven legal project management processes will no doubt position the legal department for a productive year, alleviating the tactical concerns that leaders have today and enabling them to focus on higher value strategic intiatives.