Law departments across the board are facing an unprecedented volume of legal work. Regulatory and compliance requirements are growing across all markets. Globalization is bringing with it everything from complicated intellectual property questions to increasing cross-border transactions. And these developments are on top of the routine business demands, ranging from HR issues to expanding into new markets.
More than half of corporate legal departments surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect an increase in workload this year because of increasing regulation, growth in scope of legal issues and jurisdictions, and other factors.
At the same time, organizational pressures for greater efficiency are omnipresent. Many law departments try to balance these seemingly at-odds objectives by finding ways to bring more work in-house and reducing outside counsel spend.
Legal know-how can be an effective tool for helping law departments achieve those objectives. It can increase the efficiency of the law department, facilitate bringing more work in-house and enable more effective management of outside counsel.
Legal know-how such as that provided by Practical Law offers practice-specific legal resources written by attorney editors for lawyers on the front lines. The information is continually updated, ensuring the most current guidance.
Practice notes provide straightforward how-to guides and explanations of current law and practice, ranging from basic overviews of areas of law to detailed analysis for specialists. Standard documents and clauses provide contract and other document templates, with drafting, negotiating and guidance notes to help create legal documents. Checklists help organize and track matters. Taken together, this legal know-how can help attorneys quickly get up to speed on an issue and practice more efficiently.
Having the ability to handle more work in-house means more flexibility in managing the legal workload.
Nowadays, law departments must deal with an increasing variety of legal topics. When new issues arise, legal know-how can quickly bring attorneys up to speed on the current law in an area. This can greatly expand the department’s ability to take on new and unfamiliar issues that might otherwise have been assigned to outside counsel. It can additionally result in improved responsiveness and service levels to internal clients.
For example, a business unit may need a document drafted immediately for a pending transaction. Know-how resources such as templates, sample documents, practice notes and integrated drafting tools can help a lawyer to quickly draft a document that reflects the most current state of the law. Such assignments are often given to outside counsel, but drafting the documents in-house can eliminate time spent communicating details, timelines and expectations.
Similarly, handling complex legal issues becomes more feasible. Complicated matters, especially those with aggressive timelines, are frequently referred to outside counsel. But resources such as practice notes and checklists can help in-house counsel quickly understand and navigate the maze of potentially complicated issues.
Know-how can also help manage project timelines and expectations with other parties within the business. Know-how resources can help explain the legal principles behind strategies and actions, promoting buy-in and support.
Even when work is assigned to outside counsel, know-how can lead to better oversight and more efficient management of matters.
Legal know-how establishes a common ground for understanding and communicating about the legal issues at the heart of a matter. It ensures that all team members – whether in-house or outside counsel – have a complete, consistent understanding of the area of law, including applicable legal principles, statutes, case law, terminology and more.
Templates and sample documents not only provide an efficient starting point, they also increase confidence that final documents reflect current law and legal thinking. Checklists can aid in spotting issues that outside counsel may have missed, helping ensure the matter is handled thoroughly and completely from the outset.
Greater efficiency in delivering quality work product is key in today’s business environment. Fast-changing legal and regulatory demands require new levels of efficiency in both handling work in-house and managing outside counsel.
Legal know-how can be an important resource for effectively managing growing workloads with less strain on law department resources and budgets.
Susan Feingold is editorial head of Practical Law for Law Departments at Thomson Reuters.