This is the conclusion of a two-part blog on the 2019 General Counsel Barometer, which Wolters Kluwer’s ELM Solutions has published in partnership with The Lawyer. The report provides a snapshot of the priorities and expectations of European legal department leaders, reflecting a variety of perspectives. Respondents were mainly global or practice area General Counsel and came from companies of all sizes with legal departments ranging from less than 10 employees to over 150. This year’s report is a follow-up on our 2017 survey, showing not just the current state, but the evolving trends over the last two years.
The 2019 General Counsel Barometer report reveals information about the goals and priorities of surveyed legal leaders, as well as the technology they are embracing to meet these evolving goals. My previous blog post was an exploration of the areas European legal departments are focused on and what they want to accomplish in the near term. In this post, I go over the survey responses that spoke to the technology choices that European legal departments are making by focusing on the responses to three key survey questions.
With legal departments increasingly focusing on strategic business goals, we would expect many to turn to technology for help. It is therefore no surprise that 72% of survey respondents said they expect their department’s technology investment to increase over the next 12 months. Almost none expect to decrease their department’s investment in technology, which makes sense. Legal departments looking to increase the value they provide cannot generally do so with a decrease in technology.
Meanwhile, 26% reported that they expect no change in their spending on technology. Many respondents to our 2017 survey were already focused on making a more strategic contribution to their organizations. It’s likely than many of these legal departments have made significant technology investments over the two years since that survey. We would expect these departments to hold steady for the near future while they implement and operationalize their recent acquisitions. For others in this “no change” category, budget limitations may play a role in restricting their technology investment options.
With Artificial Intelligence (AI) playing an ever-expanding role in the legal department, we wanted to find out how European organizations are using AI and in what areas they are getting the best value from it. We found that 44% feel that contract management and review is where AI has had the greatest impact.
Given the huge volume of contracts that most companies have to manage, it is understandable that they would seek out technology that can help them track renewal dates, keep contract language consistent, and quickly access the content of all contracts without the need to hire additional employees. Because legal departments deal in very large volumes of data, AI is a natural fit for helping them to run more efficiently.
When asked about where legal departments are currently applying technology, 64% of our respondents indicated a focus on contract lifecycle management. Again, the sheer number of contracts legal departments are responsible for means that they need to tools to ensure that contracting is executed well at every stage. In most organizations, this isn’t possible with spreadsheets and emails; purpose-built contract management technology is needed.
In addition, 61% said that they are using solutions that help them manage legal spend, specifically invoicing and billing. Drilling in to those companies generating more than $25 billion, the number rises to 73%. Larger companies with greater legal spend are more likely to seek the visibility and cost control that spend management solutions provide.
It is clear from this year’s survey results that technology tools continue to be a key to delivering the strategic and business contributions that European legal departments are increasingly responsible for. It makes sense. Acting as a business partner while providing legal guidance and minimizing risk is a complex undertaking. Legal leaders are wise to leverage the right tools to help them meet these goals.
Download the full 2019 GC Barometer report for more insights on the trends currently shaping legal operations in Europe.