With the ever increasing challenge of finding a training contract and a job, today, 25 per cent of solicitors work in-house rather than in private practice.
The transformation of in-house legal practice is contextualised by three key trends:
- General counsel will not survive if they fail to focus on cost. In-house counsel have focused on reducing external spend with law firms and substituting that lost capability with larger internal teams.
- An increasing demand for efficiency, delivered through improved process and systems. Legal services are becoming more industrialised. Legal work has been deconstructed so that if it does not require legally qualified resources it is reduced to a process and can be delivered at lower cost by paralegal staff offshore or near-shore, using IT systems to manage workflow, databases or document assembly systems.
- Changing personal working preferences. Virtual work environments have allowed for more flexible lifestyles and active childcare, and an increase in the number of people who can return to work or work flexible hours. Legal services can be delivered seamlessly and more responsively across time zones. Teams are more diverse improving quality, collaboration, teamwork and problem-solving capacity.
In the near future, organisations will look to set up teams offshore in countries such as India, increasing efficiency and reducing cost. Those organisations will then look to enter into an arrangement with a global firm who will provide coverage across all of their in-house teams worldwide at a single annual price. This arrangement allows in-house teams to instruct lawyers whenever they need support without the administrative or financial constraint.
There is now a demand for a new breed of legal service provider who will utilise scale, technology, wage arbitrage and up-to-date management capability to provide an outsourced service for certain legal work to be done more effectively outside than in. In-house departments will shrink to comprise only a general counsel and a few internal lawyers who have the core competencies to facilitate the delivery of the service and participate in their internal client management teams.