It wasn’t quite an official pandemic yet — it didn’t need to be.

Early March 2020 saw clients gauging how bad it would be and assessing work from home strategies, and here we are today. It’s been almost a year and it’s a new world. We asked 240 top legal decision makers what their thinking is now compared to last year, and where they are headed. 9 themes emerge:

Worker Safety

The overriding theme is worker safety. Top legal decision makers are focusing on the steps to keep workers safe. This includes the return-to-work strategies, at work protocols, vaccine policies, and travel. Clients are trying to find the right answers to keep employees safe against a changing and perceived volatile backdrop.

Adapt

The challenges are no longer as dire. The top concern morphed into how to get the priority tasks done from how do we operate. So many parts of the economy are chugging along, no one wants to be left behind. And at least 22% of clients see the ability to adapt as a career opportunity.

Comply

Top legal decisions makers describe the stream of regulations and guidance as daunting. Clients are focused on:

  • CARES Act
  • PPP issuance
  • WFH
  • Return to Work
  • Vaccine policy
  • Data Privacy
  • Discrimination

And this is just the start. Clients believe agencies have not hit full stride yet and are expecting more regulations — especially in data privacy.

Data Privacy

This is a 2-pronged issue:

  1. GDPR and CCPA are here. Individual states are passing their own legislation almost weekly. Top legal decision makers want to make sure they comply and find the inconsistencies — fast.
  2. WFH employees find their VPNs and security features make work clunky and difficult. They are working on their personal laptops and using home wireless networks. These well-intentioned employees are improving productivity, but companies are seeing security diluted.

Legal Workflow Process

A soaring workload demands a clear road map about who is doing what and when. Remote work makes the processes essential. The old processes were not designed for remote work — driving a need for formalizing the workflows and ensuring the entire department knows what they are.

Automation

Technology is moving into corporate legal departments. Top legal decision makers are looking at contract management, matter management, budget tracking, and IP management. Consider technology a cousin to legal process — a tool to define work processes.

Microsoft Teams is highly popular as well.

Hiring

Clients want to bring work in-house. They want attorneys who can do the work. This won’t put a dent in the work going to outside counsel — but will give clients more control over certain matters and workstream.

Clients believe bringing more work in-house will give them insight into the best strategies to use for compliance and litigation.

Outside Counsel

Managing law firms takes up so much time. Clients want the right firms at the right time. Clients are sticking with the firms who stepped up during the pandemic, but all others are under review. 30% of clients are new in their role and are assessing the law firms they want in their lineup.

And of course, keeping outside counsel costs down is a defining issue.

Litigation

Cases are up 22%, and this while courts are still clogged. These top legal decision makers want to settle, use AFAs, and come up with the best forward-looking strategies. And settlement is top of mind.

Clients are more focused on getting work but still keeping an eye on the pandemic. The world is more comfortable with the discomfort and the uncertainty the pandemic poses. Law firms and clients are surprised at how well business is holding up and expect more of the same.

Outside Law Firms Have the Ideas — Share Them

Clients are the most open they have ever been to your ideas on how to better adapt and manage. Outside counsel are the only individuals who have a broad view of what corporate counsel are doing. Don’t keep this knowledge to yourself.

These insights are scarce and valuable to clients. The more you share the more business you will get. This means talking to your clients and sharing these ideas — and you will gain the insight to get you the plethora of new work without RFPs.

Be well. Be safe. Talk to Your Clients. Win more work.

MBR

The Mad Clientist

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