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The New Generation of Legal departments is here. Has your team caught up yet?

About three years have passed since the global pandemic began. Life after COVID has changed. The new workplaces setup is probably the most obvious example of this transition, with many houses being transformed into offices. According to recent reports, most people don’t want to return to the workplace in the same capacity as before the pandemic.

In-house teams are returning to work now that some of the immediate risks have subsided, some full-time and the majority on a hybrid schedule. The necessity for in-person cooperation is frequently brought up in discussions about what this means for workers who want to continue working from home and companies who want people in offices. The usage of tools that enable us to interact and collaborate not only from our homes but from any location in the world has expanded. New trends like “the Great Resignation” and “silent resigning” are also becoming more common as a result of what we mentioned before.

How does this affect Legal Departments?

Although in-house teams that work across business units often need to interact, knowledge workers like in-house lawyers can work from anywhere (with the exception of courtrooms, where accommodations can be made). What is a good middle ground? How decisions about internal teams and how they work can be made, while also adhering to legal obligations and managing the ramifications of allowing workers to essentially work from anywhere in the world?

There are a lot of factors to take into account when analysing how these problems affect employee retention and shifting job priorities. Even if there are difficulties, it appears that COVID’s disruption has given rise to a chance to construct better internal workplaces (both in a physical and non-physical sense) that are more in line with the preferences of contemporary corporate counsel.

Let’s see what are external as well as internal conditions that are shaping this New Generation of teams:

  • Hiring and retention of the personnel

The 2022 Survey made by the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), found that 63 in-house teams already work a hybrid schedule, with 57 per cent of those who were qualified to work remotely two to three days per week. Only 11% said they spent all of their time working from home.

Hiring new staff

The Great Resignation has also had a very substantial impact on 86 per cent of legal departments in reaction to shifting priorities, with 70 per cent of in-house attorneys polled suggesting they’re likely to quit in the upcoming year, 33 per cent saying they had changed employment in the previous two years, and 18 per cent saying they were “likely” or “very likely” to do so in the upcoming year.

Higher flexibility in the in-house legal department and the workplace as a whole is not a luxury anymore but rather a requirement. Both retaining our teams and adding new team members are crucial. In fact, New generations of Legal teams will understand that hiring the correct mix of personnel is the most important thing legal departments can do to meet the expanding expectations of the company.

As leaders, Heads of legal Departments must provide guidance on both the numerous legal concerns that might emerge from remote work and the alignment of expectations with policy, as well as how this “new” method of working can be advantageous to the business as a whole.

  • In-office Vs Hybrid Work

The physical workplace is shifting in response to the move toward hybrid arrangements. Anecdotally, we are all aware that flexible in-office attendance promotes flexible work settings, such as more open floor plans, “hot-desking,” and an emphasis on collaborative areas. That makes sense because employing a regular workplace only a few days a week is difficult to justify. The suitability of less conventional workplaces for internal teams is, however, seriously questioned.

Most opinions on the value of a physical office have cited factors including secrecy and the necessity for focused work.

The New Generation of Legal teams and leaders understand that no matter the space, whether small, opulent or open-plan spaces can be successfully implemented by an internal team, and enough consideration should be put on the subject.

  • Technology as the key for Retention and Productivity

Technology needs to be a top focus if In-House Legal departments want to remain engaged and actively connected. A 2022 Trends in Legal Transformation and Technology Report clearly shows how having integrated technology and solution providers is the most crucial next-generation investment for legal departments. 87 per cent of in-house attorneys want to work for a legal department that fully utilizes technology.

Technology

People now see immense value in working with organizations that invest in technology, regardless of whether you are in the legal department or not. Surveys like the one mentioned before demonstrate that in-house legal departments would be best served by finding creative uses for new technology, such as process automation and artificial intelligence tools, which can “reduce the impact of growing demand on the well-being of in-house counsel.” An excellent illustration of this is how the massive growth in video conferencing use, which was initially in reaction to remote working as a result of COVID, has allowed for much greater team communication and partially overcomes proximity bias concerns.

Process automation and artificial intelligence solutions, which can “reduce the impact of growing demand on the well-being of in-house counsel,” are among the creative ways that the New Generation of in-house legal departments might and should leverage new technology.

In Sum…

It is essential that the heads of the legal departments continue to be flexible when it comes to alterations to our corporate cultures if they want to form part of the New Generation of Legal Departments. When it comes to our hiring and retention procedures as well as our regulations regarding remote work, legal Leaders need to keep up with this trend. Future legal departments and in-house legal practices will develop and evolve even more.

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