Almost three quarters (71%) of in-house legal teams have had greater involvement in strategic decision making at board level as a result of the pandemic
London – A new study looking into the outcomes, concerns and challenges of in-house legal teams as a result of COVID-19, has found that 71% of in-house lawyers have had greater involvement in strategic decision making at board level due to the pandemic. This has been particularly valuable to firms, since two thirds (66%) of businesses have had to accelerate or significantly alter their business strategy as a result of the crisis.
This change may well become a permanent feature for businesses, with over half (54%) of respondents believing that they will continue to see greater involvement in board-level decision making, in the long term.
The study, conducted by global law firm, Paul Hastings LLP, in collaboration with The Lawyer, includes analysis of over 120 survey responses collected from General Counsel, Heads of Legal and Chief Legal Officers in businesses throughout the UK. The research also found that the mass shift to remote working could fuel greater diversity across workforces in the legal sector, with roles potentially more accessible to people with childcare pressures, as well as individuals with disabilities or mobility issues.
However, not all the findings were positive. Despite some respondents believing in-house legal teams will remain involved in strategic decisions (71%), there are also fears amongst over half (53%) of in-house legal teams that long-term remote working will make it harder for senior legal teams and the board to build a trusted relationship, with 37% believing it will be harder for legal teams to keep informed of all decisions.
When looking at further changes the pandemic has triggered within businesses, with 30% of respondents saying that it has accelerated their businesses plans to invest in technology, and 61% saying it has changed their long term approach to AI. In itself, this may result in more work to do for legal professionals within the realm of cybersecurity and compliance, as automation becomes more prevalent throughout a business.
Positively for legal teams, the study concluded that over a third (38%) of FTSE 250 in-house lawyers think that their team size will increase as a result of the pandemic, with the same number feeling that there will be no change. This message of growth and stability is clearly a positive message for legal teams, especially emerging from a period of uncertainty.
Suzanne Horne, Employment Partner at Paul Hastings, said:
“The pandemic has seen a growth in importance of in-house legal teams as they are consulted more by the board on strategic decisions. The future of work is upon us and in-house legal teams have the opportunity now to influence what it looks like for them. With this increased level of responsibility, now is the time to define what practices should be refined and retained, alongside considering what new approaches to teaming, lawyering and business partnering should be on the wish list? Now’s the time to reimagine and reshape.”
Read the study here.
At Paul Hastings, our purpose is clear — to help our clients and people navigate new paths to growth. With a strong presence throughout Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the U.S., Paul Hastings is recognised as one of the world’s most innovative global law firms.