Reduced legal budgets resulting from the pandemic could lead to more junior lawyers being hired for general counsel posts, a report on the in-house sector suggests.

Global firm DLA Piper surveyed 231 in-house lawyers, of whom around half expect internal and external legal budgets to fall in the immediate future.

With in-house teams having to do more with less, the report says that in Asia, in-house teams are reportedly hiring more junior lawyers from external firms to fill head of legal and general counsel vacancies, because they no longer have the budget to hire senior professionals.

‘We know from our discussions with WIN [DLA Piper programme What In-House Lawyers Need] members that others are making more use of contract lawyers to fill senior vacancies and moving away from reliance on secondments,’ the report adds.

With Covid-19 forcing lawyers to work remotely, seven in 10 respondents felt they exceeded expectations and were potentially doing a better job than before the pandemic.

Covid-19 was also providing unexpected opportunities for in-house lawyers. Dr Thomas Karst, general counsel at Rolls-Royce Power Systems, said: ‘We’ve seen team members invited to virtual discussions where perhaps they might not have been invited to a physical meeting; colleagues tend to invite the legal folks more often.’