According to a survey by the Association of Corporate Counsel, nearly half of in-house attorneys report an increase in their workload, logging an average of 49 hours per week. This increase has been attributed to new laws, regulatory changes, M&A, staffing changes, and business needs. But there is another reason: more and more organizations are shifting work away from outside counsel and bringing it in-house, even when they are satisfied with the work. In a 2017 In-House Benchmarking Report by Exterro, BDO, and EDRM Duke Law, 51% of the responding in-house attorneys stated that more than half of their legal activities were conducted internally.
Bringing work in-house achieves the goals of reducing spend, retaining control over data, and leveraging internal experience and capacity, according to this report. But it’s not without challenges. Corporate counsel must creatively balance stagnant resources with increasingly complex work, and tackle both day-to-day corporate responsibilities and heavy litigation caseloads. The Benchmarking survey respondents noted that they were quite satisfied with the work product of their teams, but wanted to be more efficient, specifically in the areas of practice group integration and operations support.
For cases handled internally, in-house attorneys take on the project manager role, overseeing administrative tasks such as coordinating projects, ensuring deadlines are met, and managing reporting, while also retaining responsibility for substantive matters such as case strategy. The lack of a consistent process to manage both of these areas simultaneously often results in disorganization, putting out fires, and reactive deadline management. In-house counsel noted that their teams continued to use “basic tools” such as spreadsheets and email to manage cases, and characterized themselves as “immature” when it comes to processes:
“We end up emailing around spreadsheets, rather than inputting the data once into a database that is easily accessible and provides and ability to pull reports automatically.”
But these trends are changing. Corporate legal departments have started implementing consistent, formal processes to manage the various phases of litigation and complete legal tasks more efficiently and effectively. Implementing such processes also provides transparency and predictability for all stakeholders, as well as cost control. Legal case management and matter management tools can be used (replacing spreadsheets and emails) as collaborative platforms to manage all case information, as well as establish a history of litigation work to be used in future matters, reducing costly and time-consuming emails, phone calls, and memoranda. Strategic and deliberate management of cases handled internally, along with mature processes, will quiet the chaos and free up time.