During the first half of 2018, I’ve had the chance to talk with legal professionals around Europe in both conference and private settings. In different countries and across industries, Europe’s GCs are embracing innovation as a way of improving the efficiency of their teams. While there are differences in specific focus depending on the size of the legal department, how they are resourced and the industry they are in, what I have heard consistently is that legal departments are faced with pressure to improve results without increasing resources and want their operations to continue running smoothly while achieving challenging corporate goals.
At industry events, such as DII’s 10th Annual General Counsel Roundtable and the Nordic Management Roundtable Conference, my Wolters Kluwer’s ELM Solutions colleagues and I have heard extensively from European GCs looking for ways to improve both processes and technology in pursuit of greater efficiency, employee satisfaction, and law firm collaboration. While every company is different, several themes have emerged as important for European legal departments across industries:
Evolution of the GC Role
More is expected of the legal function today than ever before, which places new demands on General Counsel. In addition to their traditional duties, GCs are increasingly also responsible for helping the company meet its business goals while maintaining independence with regard to risk assessment and legal advice. It is a balance that requires keen understanding of both applicable law and stakeholder priorities.
Gaining Insight from Data
Data-aided decision-making can help legal departments deliver against business goals while limiting risk. Capturing key matter and invoice data reveals insights that can enhance the way GCs and legal operations professionals manage the legal function. This approach helps to control external costs, increase internal efficiency, improve matter outcomes and inventory, and enhance predictability to avoid surprises.
Artificial Intelligence Tools
At the Nordic Management Roundtable, panelist Silvina Peñaloza Isacson observed that “automation of certain legal tasks… is an opportunity to be faster in, for instance, handling repetitive tasks or even in risk management.” For exactly this reason, artificial intelligence (AI) technology, specifically, was an important part of conference agendas over the last several months. (My ELM Solutions colleague Sandeep Sacheti shared his reflections on AI and the DII General Counsel Roundtable in this blog post.)
GCs are looking for ways to automate lower value tasks and many in Europe have begun to use AI tools that free the lawyers on their teams to concentrate on the high-value legal work that they were trained for. AI offerings are often discussed with respect to eDiscovery, invoice review, and many other areas. The legal applications for AI, and the selection of available AI tools, will only increase over the next few years.
Corporate legal is a demanding profession in any industry or geographical region. It is valuable to pause from time to time and check in with peers and subject matter experts for updates on innovations in both technology and best practices. I look forward to continuing the ongoing conversation with legal leaders throughout Europe. For further insight on the goals and priorities of corporate legal departments in Europe as a whole, download our General Counsel Barometer 2017 report.