Latest news – General counsel ‘on the defensive’; Skills shift for law librarians; Recruitment tips for greater diversity

[Australasian Law Management Journal,Finance & Accounting,General Management,Marketing & Business Development,People Management(HR),Strategy & Leadership,Technology] April 29, 2019

Royal commission a wakeup call for GCs

New research shows that, in the aftermath of the banking royal commission, 48 per cent of general counsel in Australia are looking to redesign their working practices.

The State of Australian Corporate Law Departments Report 2019, produced by Thomson Reuters in collaboration with UK legal research firm Acritas, finds that the royal commission, plus changes to whistle-blower protection laws, have left organisations “on the defensive”. “Indeed, these two regulatory events have become key motivators for organisations to look inward and establish strong self-regulation in order to rid themselves of any hints of unethical corporate behaviour,” Thomson Reuters states.

The mood in Australia is also weighed down further by general global economic uncertainty, which carries with it the pressure to mitigate litigation risks, corporate budget cuts, further corporate restructuring, and the strong push to remain commercially viable in today’s market. Among the key factors that could impact Australian GCs that were identified in the report include:

  • Financial constraints: Corporate law departments and their in-house lawyers and staff are expected to bear the brunt of deeper budget cuts during the next 12 months.
  • Focus on value: As a result of this budget tightening, more Australian legal departments are likely to assess the value proposition of outside legal suppliers and look at their potential to value-add as a key component of their selection criteria.
  • Innovation push: As a further result of continued budget cuts, GCs are increasingly seeking new and innovative ways to manage and deliver their legal work, according to the report, which showed that 48 per cent of GCs surveyed are introducing innovative solutions to drive efficiencies and more effective working practices.

The report also reveals that, despite the desire among Australian in-house teams to drive efficiency and generate more value from their suppliers, they adopt a lower number of technologies compared with the global average. The average in-house team in Australia, for example, uses 2.8 technologies for their daily roles, while inhouse counsel in the United States use 4.2 per day.

Law libraries pursue bold new direction

According to a new American report, law librarians are recognising technological shifts in their profession and have switched their focus to new skills.

The inaugural AALL State of the Profession 2019 report, produced by the American Association of Law Libraries, provides an overview of the law library and legal information landscape while capturing information from academic, government, law firm and corporate law libraries. The research reveals that 27.4 per cent of law firms or corporations have at least one active artificial intelligence initiative, and of those 68.4 per cent involve the library. Key areas for skills development include artificial intelligence or machine learning, data analytics and blockchain. The report suggests that the vast majority of government law library employees believe that AI or machine learning has already affected their workflow by automating routine tasks and opening up more opportunities for other work.

Budgets for law firm and corporate law libraries increased 8.1 per cent, from $3.8 million in 2016 to $4.1 million in 2018. The report claims that law libraries will focus more on the acquisition of digital collections and electronic resources, particularly as their physical space continues to decrease. They will also increase collaboration and share more resources as budgets decrease or remain relatively stagnant.

Report offers advice on diversity drive

A new report from the UK offers an insight into how all firms around the can demonstrate their support for multiculturalism and diversity in recruitment.

The advice, given in the Best Practice Report of NOTICED, an inter-firm diversity network, was recently revealed at a legal event in London.

The five key recommendations are:

  • adopting or developing more robust and comprehensive strategies to gather data on black, Asian and minority ethnic employees;
  • continuing to evaluate recruitment processes to eliminate any obstacles to employment from the widest pool of talent;
  • developing an action plan to better understand whether retention of employees from a diverse background is an issue;
  • developing an action plan to counter attrition of employees from a diverse background to the extent that this is identified as an issue and;
  • adopting aspirational targets in relation to the recruitment and retention of employees from a diverse background.