In-House Legal Leaders: Key Takeaways from 2020 In-House Legal Benchmarking Report (Adv.)

In-House Legal Leaders

What can we say about 2020 that hasn’t already been said? It’s been one for the books, and legal departments are hoping that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic volatility are over. For those looking to get more insight into the current thinking of many corporate legal departments, Exterro’s 2020 In-House Legal Benchmarking Report offers a glimpse into their concerns and strategies for overcoming these challenges—and many others. 

Here are a few interesting things we learned after surveying 220 legal department representatives: 

  1. Legal departments are feeling the crunch—and not just in their budgets. In-house legal departments are not only re-assessing their budgets, but some are tweaking their social and workplace policies as well. The report found that 57% of respondents were most worried about the impacts of economic pressures (layoffs, reduced budgets, muddling recovery) more than other factors like the expansion and enforcement of data privacy laws. 

In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, 30% of departments say they have (or will) re-assess their internal policies and procedures to strive for a more diverse staff and help erase potential system discrimination in their ranks. 

  1. E-Discovery remains an easy area to automate and save, along with pre-litigation. As teams are looking to significantly reduce their spending, they’re looking to technology to help stabilize what are, for many teams, ad-hoc processes. More than half of in-house teams consider their departments to be relatively immature, but are focusing their efforts on: 
    • Tracking key metrics that showcase third-party spend and efficiency of resources
    • Investing in e-discovery technology like legal hold or document management and collection/processing software
    • Limiting the most expensive pre-litigation costs: document review expenses
  1. Legal departments don’t consider DSARs to be a risk (but they are). This factor seems to stem from two issues: 
    • A surprising portion of legal departments (18%) aren’t sure whether data privacy laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) even apply to them. If the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) passes in November, they’ll have yet another privacy regulation to worry about, this time with a serious focus on data retention. 
    • About one-quarter (27%) of organizations aren’t sure whether they’re receiving any DSARs, and more than three quarters (77%) use spreadsheets (or aren’t sure how they report on DSARs) to track requests. 
  1. Most of these problems are exacerbated in small and mid-size legal departments. Left to wear multiple hats, legal professionals in smaller businesses usually face ad-hoc processes in pre-litigation (45%, or 10% higher than overall survey results) and e-discovery, as 71% of smaller departments don’t have dedicated e-discovery teams. This makes technology all the more important, as it can provide both budgetary relief and greater efficiency for teams that have a lot to get done but little manpower to do so. 

Download the full 2020 In-House Legal Benchmarking Report, including the survey results, from Exterro.

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