Business leaders across the world expect the workload of their legal departments to grow by a quarter over the next three years in the wake of COVID-19, according to a survey reported in the Law Society Gazette of England and Wales.
The study of more than 2,000 executives was carried out by EY Law and Harvard Law School.
It says in-house legal teams urgently need to invest in technology to keep on top of rising workloads, as 75% of general counsel (GCs) predict that their budgets will prove insufficient over the next three years.
Despite this expected rise in workloads, 88% of GCs intend to cut costs, as a result of pressure from the chief executive and board. Large organisations are targeting savings of 18%.
The study finds that three-quarters of in-house lawyers predict that their budgets will be outpaced by their growing workloads, and few are confident in their department’s ability to identify, measure and manage complex risk.
On automation and technology, just 30% of in-house counsel say they have the technology required to do their job, and almost all say they face challenges securing budgets for investment in legal technology.
According to the Gazette, EY also found that morale among staff is also low, with employees spending too much time on low-value, routine tasks.
Kate Barton, global vice-chair for tax at EY, said: “If legal departments are to remain effective in our increasingly global, complex and interconnected regulatory environment, they must act fast to transform their legal operations and invest in the right technology.
“Only then will they be able to keep pace with a fast-growing list of regulatory, cyber and operational risks confronting organisations today,” she added.
David B Wilkins, Lester Kissel Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, added that GCs must make greater use of data and technology solutions, as well as external providers, but he added that this process would not be easy and would require business leaders to invest more resources initially.