Challenges facing legal teams in the next 5 years

Challenges facing legal teams in the next 5 years


In 2020, there is an increasing pressure on in-house lawyers to act as not just legal advisers, but as leaders of their organisations who help shape the future of their companies.

LexisNexis have gathered the key challenges quoted by leading Legal Operations executives from our Legal Ops forum, as well as from Dana Denis-Smith, CEO of Obelisk Support, a provider of flexible legal services for the in-house market.

Read below for some food for thought regarding the direction of the industry.


Top talent comes at a price


Dana Denis-Smith, CEO of Obelisk Support—a provider of flexible legal services, believes attracting and retaining talent in the face of increasing pressure to cut costs will be the number one challenge for most legal teams.  

"It's encouraging to see more and more legal leaders embracing alternative working arrangements within their teams, such as placing overflow work with flexible consultants and offering full-time employees flexible and remote working opportunities", says Dana.

"This approach is going to be vital as competition for legal talent increases and to prevent employee burnout. It does, however, require senior and aspiring leaders to pay more attention to developing their personal style, as they will need to get results through building buy-in to their vision and values, rather than relying on direct supervision."


From our in-house roundtables, we know that finding the budget to recruit talent and making the right resourcing decisions in an increasingly competitive market is a key concern for in-house legal teams.

People are an unknown quantity, they have dreams, emotions and can change their minds about what it is they want. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to managing people; it’s not just about offering perks, but more about creating a bespoke way of learning about what motivates your team, and then acting on it.

Many industry leaders have discussed the challenge of developing a knowledgeable, agile and strategically adept workforce, while functioning in a digital world—which has its own leadership challenges. 

Read our articles: Is flexible working the answer to stress in the legal profession? and The future of work 2025: Mobility, culture and the flexi-lawyer that touch on the challenges of managing flexible teams.




How to leverage technology while keeping up with your day job


Dana Denis-Smith also sees many legal leaders grappling with the need to identify ways to realise the efficiency promise of developments in legal tech, whilst at the same time delivering on day-to-day requirements of their business. 

"General Counsel will have to invest more time in identifying and prioritising areas where technology can make a dramatic difference to productivity and take a leading role in embedding changes across the entire business. 

We will see a continued rise in people in legal project management, process engineering and legal operations roles in-house designing and implementing this new infrastructure."

The term ‘digital transformation’ has different interpretations, particularly when considering the role of the in-house legal team.

One denotes the implementation of the latest app into the legacy infrastructure, the other, broadly means the introduction of new technology to change the way your business is run.

The latter is probably the more malleable and exciting concept. However, how realistic – and expensive – is it?

The problems encountered when adopting legal technology are generally not that there is a lack of understanding of its benefits.

From our own research at LexisNexis, we know that legal teams are in fact keen to deploy legal tech solutions, with a clear understanding of how technology can contribute to their productivity and getting the most out of their current, stretched resources.

In our recent industry roundtable discussion on The Legal Department of the Future, published in Local Government Lawyer (sponsored by LexisNexis), many of the leaders surveyed (88%) confirmed to have already implemented legal research platforms, and 57% had implemented Document Management systems in order to improve their workflows.


Expanding legal operations


Another challenge of the GC’s remit over the next five years will be around how to grow the legal ops function and shape how the department will look, while leveraging the use of new legal tech.

Establishing and growing a legal ops team is not a straight-forward task and can be a significant behavioural change for an in-house team.

Defining the main objectives of the team is perhaps the first challenge presented to GCs and their staff. However, considering resource allocation and retooling workflows are good places to start for boosting efficiency and doing more with fewer resources.


These issues were discussed in our in-house Legal Ops forum. Below, we have captured the key challenges faced by the group, by volume.

Interestingly, legal tech and tools were ranked lowest, while resourcing and delivering value were voted the most significant current challenges:


[LexisNexis Legal Ops forum, November 2019]


If you are a legal operations executive who identifies with these issues – keep an eye on the in-house blog for future Legal Ops strategy and networking events.


Product deep-dive: How we can help


LexisNexis has 200 years of experience providing information services to the legal sector. Our suite of software tools provide complete coverage of updates in case law and legislation, with efficient software tools, allowing you to check your work thoroughly, at the click of a button, as well as perform in-depth analysis into sectors and practice areas at the level of complexity you need.

According to our clients, one of the many advantages of the suite of software tools is that you can significantly reduce the amount of time spent on research, and drafting documents, while mitigating the inevitable risks to client experience, and reputation, of documents going out containing simple errors.

Our research has shown that 85% of lawyers believe client demand is having as much of an impact as regulation. Click below to explore our fully-integrated tools, and to understand how we can support you effectively in your role:


In-house advisor

As an in-house lawyer, you have to cover more ground than most. Today, you need to be an expert on data protection. Tomorrow, it could be employment contracts. And it’s not just a case of knowing the law. You need to have a nose for the commercial side of things, too.

Whatever the challenge, LexisPSL In-house is the place to start. It’s the only online tool that brings together all of the areas you need to deal with on a daily basis: commercial law, property law, employment law (and more). It also includes business skills to help you manage your team and understand your business so you can most effectively apply the law.



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About the author:

Amy is an established writer and researcher, having contributed to publications, such as The Law Society, LPM, City A.M. and Financial IT. Her role at LexisNexis UK involved leading content and thought leadership, as well as writing research reports, including "The Bellwether Report 2020, Covid-19: The next chapter" and "Are medium-sized firms the change-makers in legal?"