LexisNexis Survey Finds Renewed Optimism in Corporate Legal

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Optimism Unlikely to Parlay into Larger Budgets as Legal Departments Remain Focused on Value; Tech, Data and Analytics Remain Areas of Focus

corporate legal department survey, legal department optimism.

More than 70% of corporate legal respondents said this year has been better than the previous.

Despite a renewed sense of optimism among corporate attorneys, it’s clear from this survey that legal departments remain focused on driving value from budgets.

LexisNexis® Legal & Professional, a leading provider of content and technology solutions, announced today the results of a survey finding a renewed sense of optimism among U.S.-based corporate legal departments. More than 70% of survey respondents, which were mostly comprised of corporate attorneys, said this year has been better as compared to the previous year.

Optimism aside, the survey also identified the top legal department goal as reducing outside counsel spend (61%). This goal was closely followed by proving the value of the legal department to the business (60%) – and rounding out the top five were predicting legal outcomes with accuracy (48%); automating process to increase legal department efficiency (43%); and providing predictable legal budgets (37%).

“Despite a renewed sense of optimism among corporate attorneys, it’s clear from this survey that legal departments remain focused on driving value from budgets,” said Mike Haysley, director of Strategic Consulting for the LexisNexis CounselLink® business, the team that conducted the survey. “This is the new normal – what businesses discovered beginning in 2008 is that legal spending can be managed without exposing the company to additional risk; as a consequence, bigger legal budgets aren’t likely to return even as the business climate continues to improve.”

Other findings in the survey include:

  • Bringing more work in-house. 54% of respondents said they plan to bring more work in-house as a means to manage outside counsel spend. Other measures included using more alternative fee arrangements (32%); developing billing guidelines and rules (30%); consolidating legal work with fewer firms (21%); and implementing a matter management system (21%).
  • Compliance and operational efficiency the top challenges. Regulatory compliance and improving operational efficiency tied for the distinction as the top legal department challenges. Of a list of nine other common challenges, budget pressure ranked third (52%), not enough staff ranked fourth (46%); and making better use of technology ranked fifth (43%).
  • Legal budgets and staffing to remain mostly flat. About one-third of respondents anticipate an increase in budget and staffing over the next 12 months, however the majority expect such resources to remain flat. Nearly 55% said budgets, and 62% said staffing, would remain flat over the next year. In addition, a little more than 10% expect a decline in both resources.
  • Relationships and results top outside counsel selection factors. Asked to rank a list of nine common factors in selecting outside counsel, “existing relationships” and “proven results” topped the list. Surprisingly, given the industry attention in the last year, on the importance of factors such as “diversity,” and the need for attorneys to be “technological savvy,” these considerations ranked the lowest.
  • What would inside counsel change about legal departments? The words technology, data and metrics were all part of the lexicon in response to an open-ended question. All told, the survey found 37% of corporate legal departments expect to spend more on technology in the next year.

“These results reflect a growing sense of intellectual curiosity about technology, data and analytics to drive better legal outcomes,” added Haysley. “While relationships still clearly matter, every year for the last several we have observed corporate legal departments take increasingly larger steps toward decisions based on data.”

This survey was conducted online by polling the readers of a third party legal trade publication from September 29, 2014 to October 10, 2014. Respondents were required to identify as a legal professional working for a U.S.-based legal department. Ninety five respondents (N = 95) meeting this criteria answered the survey of which 90% identified as corporate attorneys and 68% reported holding supervisory positions including associate general counsel, general counsel and chief legal officer (CLO). Respondents were provided an incentive – a chance to be entered in a random drawing for one of eight prizes – to complete the survey.

Survey results are freely available in a slide presentation embedded on in a blog post on the Business of Law Blog: http://businessoflawblog.com/2014/11/optimistic-legal-departments/.

In addition, the LexisNexis CounselLink Strategic Consulting team will present a free online webinar about the survey:

  • What: Pulse-Check Survey of Legal Department Operations (LDO)
  • Who: Corporate legal professionals and inside counsel
  • When: Thursday, December 4, 2014 1:00-2:00 p.m. EST
  • Where: Free online webinar; register here: https://cc.readytalk.com/r/wcezypw2pr31&eom

About LexisNexis® Legal & Professional
LexisNexis Legal & Professional is a leading global provider of content and technology solutions that enable professionals in legal, corporate, tax, government, academic and non-profit organizations to make informed decisions and achieve better business outcomes. As a digital pioneer, the company was the first to bring legal and business information online with its Lexis® and Nexis® services. Today, LexisNexis Legal & Professional harnesses leading-edge technology and world-class content, to help professionals work in faster, easier and more effective ways. Through close collaboration with its customers, the company ensures organizations can leverage its solutions to reduce risk, improve productivity, increase profitability and grow their business. Part of Reed Elsevier Inc., LexisNexis Legal & Professional serves customers in more than 175 countries with 10,000 employees worldwide.

LexisNexis helps professionals at law firms and legal departments of all sizes manage the business element of their practice or departments with innovative software and mobile solutions for customer relationship management, competitive intelligence gathering and assessment, time and billing management, matter management, client analysis, legal holds and more.

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Frank Strong
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