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May 9, 2022

The Top 5 Challenges of Working with Legal Departments

There’s a somewhat fractured dynamic in the enterprise — 60% of employees view their relationship with the legal department in a positive light, yet 73% do not view Legal as a trusted business partner. Here’s why.

We live in a dynamic age. With the business landscape constantly transforming, legal operations is at a crossroads of material challenges and growth opportunities — from revenue generation and operational efficiency to innovation and corporate culture.

The good news? According to the Enterprise Legal Relationship (ELR) Report, nearly four in five (78%) enterprise respondents view Legal first and foremost as stellar business protectors. But what may come as a shock is that only 19% of employees believe that Legal prioritizes its internal clients. What’s more, only 39% of US employees see Legal as a good business partner — and, spanning the globe, that number plummets dramatically, to just 24% in Germany and 16% in France.

What is accountable for this incongruous Perception Paradox?

The Top 5 Challenges of Working with the Legal Department

There are five ways Legal is presenting challenges for the enterprise — and preventing trusting business partnerships:

  1. Acting as the “No Police”

It’s no surprise that Legal is not known to go rogue. Legal must play by the rules; the specific purpose of Legal is to establish and execute clear boundaries. However, the ELR report revealed that three in five respondents believe Legal ladens matters with often unnecessary red tape, citing Legal as overwhelmingly bureaucratic.

This image of Legal as bottleneckers contributes to greater fracture: 10% of UK employees deem Legal as uninvolved, and one in five claim that Legal is an unwilling business partner. Perhaps worse, 19% of enterprise employees worldwide do not even believe that Legal even understands their needs.

  1. Slow turnaround times

While 3 in 5 reported a matter of days as the average time for Legal teams to respond to requests, the ELR showed that often inquiries can take weeks to be addressed, especially in the United States, Germany, and France — leading a similar 60% of respondents worldwide to deem Legal as inefficient.

Ever-increasing workloads, chronically understaffed teams, and the constant mantra to “do more with less” can put a strain on both people and processes, threatening the ability to prioritize legal asks in a timely fashion and leading to Legal’s depiction as somewhat of a black hole, which in turn impedes the flow of business.

  1. The WFH situation

While the capability to work remotely proved a blessing for most businesses during the height of COVID-19, 61% believe that Legal has not been responsive enough since the work-from-home (WFH) trend began. In fact, 38% of enterprise organizations say that Legal was markedly more responsive prior to the pandemic.

With more than half of legal teams continuing to work at home full-time or on a hybrid schedule, this transition has presented novel challenges for collaboration and support – a sentiment magnified in the United Kingdom and France, where 42% of respondents reported a perceived slowdown by Legal.

  1. Lack of visibility

Similarly, while most respondents believe that Legal is visible and transparent regardless of their working location, two in five regard Legal as less so today than the department has been in the past.

Virtual and remote engagement, when compared to face-to-face office connections and real-time visibility, may understandably diminish approachability, which could in turn affect the resolution of legal issues and impact operational efficiency for a multitude of matters.

  1. The burden of inflexibility

An astonishing half of all global enterprise employees — 49%, and as high as 58% in France — believe that Legal creates an inflexible corporate culture, with four out of five respondents unable to see Legal as a modern operation. This perceived inflexibility and inefficiency can prohibit future collaboration, growth and Legal’s fundamental role in the enterprise.

There is a colossal level of scrutiny on Legal and the department’s obligation to not only mitigate risk, but to set the standard for new and acceptable risks; this is true. Deciding how to drive meaningful change — even knowing where to begin — can certainly be its own challenge.

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

“The ELR Report reveals a glaring reality check on how Legal is perceived by their enterprise organizations,” Onit CEO Eric Elfman said. “It’s time for Legal to evolve in impactful ways — their businesses are counting on them.”

Now is the time to do just that: Evolve.

To evaluate and implement cutting-edge technology, like workflow automation and artificial intelligence (AI) tools, to improve efficiency and reduce rigidity. To be bold and step up as a business partner like never before.

By doing so, you will turn around the Perception Paradox and revolutionize the leader that Legal can be.

Get your head start on a legal evolution by downloading ELR Report Chapter 1.

The ELR Report is a third-party, multinational study of 4,000 enterprise employees and 500 corporate legal professionals across the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany intended to showcase relationship dynamics and perceived image between corporate legal teams and enterprise organizations.


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