Whether it is due to the pandemic, advances in legal tech or the rapid development of practical AI tools to speed legal processes, one thing is clear – headcount in legal departments is going to be affected. And for in-house generalists, the writing on the wall is not particularly rosy, according to an updated report from Gartner. In many sectors, the “jack of all trades, master of none” often is seen as a value-add, as the individual can fill multiple needs and perform in diverse roles for an organization. In the legal sector, many lawyers have often feared being siloed in narrow niches that may disappear or dry up based on economic cycles, leaving their employment at risk. But with the confluence of factors affecting the workforce generally, legal generalists may find themselves replaced by nonlawyer staff, automation or specialized applications. Indeed, Gartner predicts that 50% of the work related to major corporate transactions will be automated by 2024. If Gartner’s predictions are correct, how should a generalist in-house counsel prepare? Getting deeper into rapidly evolving and more technical legal areas may be one answer. Another may be looking to the business side of an organization and seeing areas that could use a stakeholder with legal experience, even if the legal work itself is done by someone else – or something else. Will everyone strive to become a purple squirrel to stay relevant? Time will tell. In the meantime, there is no shortage of in-house legal jobs at all levels – even at companies conducting significant layoffs.
“The coronavirus pandemic created new pressures that have led more legal functions to pursue or consider automation, despite long being resistant to change in this area. Gartner experts expect legal departments to increase their spending on legal technology threefold by 2025. The following five predictions can help corporate legal leaders plan their legal technology investments and broader transformation efforts. In-house legal departments have long been resistant to and risk-averse about automation, but the effects of the pandemic forced many to shift gears in 2020 and pursue — or at least actively consider — more extensive automation of certain legal activities, especially those around major corporate transactions. The challenge now is deciding which technologies to embrace to drive real business outcomes. “The new pressures brought about by the coronavirus pandemic certainly have acted as a catalyst for this shift,” says Zack Hutto, Director, Advisory, Gartner. “Legal and compliance teams have rarely been frontrunners to modernize, digitalize and automate. The pandemic has flattened staffing budgets and increased legal workloads; technology is the most obvious solution for many legal departments.”