A lack of digital know-how among in-house legal teams is preventing them from demonstrating their value further up the business chain, according to law firm research.
International firm Eversheds, which assessed the views of more than 200 senior leaders from in-house and private practice teams, says there appears to be a knowledge and skills gap among in-house lawyers.
Its Looking Glass 2016 report states that 51% of GCs find it hard to decide which technologies to invest in. A third of GCs say that a lack of digital skills in the team is a challenge when trying to ‘harness’ technology.
Although increasing efficiency and the impact of the in-house legal team continue to be a top strategic priority, Eversheds managing partner Lee Ranson said digital technologies have become an important part of a broader support package that GCs need.
In a foreword to the report, Ranson said: ‘Carefully selected technologies will allow GCs and their teams to focus on high-quality, strategic work and on embedding themselves into the business, fully integrated into all levels of decision-making.’
However, GCs need help to ‘reposition their legal team away from low-level tasks into advisory roles at a more senior level, understanding and getting “stuck in to” the commercial side of the business’, he added.
In-house counsel need to decipher what technology will be most useful to them, how much to invest and how to ‘sell’ the need for it, Ranson suggested.
Robert Ivens, former head of legal at Marks and Spencer plc, told the report that it is difficult for small legal teams to get their employers to authorise the capital investment needed to go ahead with IT upgrades. 'Normally there are many other business systems closer to the customer that need to be bought and need to be invested in. And that is despite the fact that digital solutions would increase the efficiencies of the legal team.'
The report states that smaller in-house teams are struggling to find suitable IT systems, which are perceived to be either unsuitable in their set-up and costs. Teams with larger budgets are perceived to be able to negotiate better terms and receive higher standards of service.