Inside the Mind of Your Legal Leader: 4 Challenges and Trends
Inside the Mind of Your Legal Leader: 4 Challenges and Trends

Inside the Mind of Your Legal Leader: 4 Challenges and Trends

Emily Bogin |

As legal leaders face growing regulatory pressures, their teams are taking note (and responding strategically to new legal trends).

As the race picks up across state lines and abroad to implement comprehensive data privacy laws (with 20 states already passing these kinds of laws), and regulatory activity surrounding AI governance increases (like the EU AI Act and Biden’s Executive Order), GCs are taking note. The 2024 General Counsel report from FTI Consulting and Relativity confirms that the role of GCs — and legal teams — has changed in response to growing risks and shifting priorities. GCs are increasingly concerned about regulatory compliance, data privacy, and data protection. These legal trends may not be new, but they are growing: the report noted that across the board, GCs are feeling less prepared to meet these risks than they have in the past.

One consequence of increased regulatory action — which affects any business that has dealings in places where those regulations have been passed, not only where the business itself is headquartered — has been an overall expansion of corporate legal teams. This has impacted the departments and leaders that support the GC.

Today, legal teams are stepping up to help their GCs navigate this volatile environment by taking on more responsibilities in operational management and risk mitigation. Let’s dive into some of the top challenges and trends facing legal leaders, and how their teams are rising to meet them.

Legal Trends and Challenges that GCs (and their legal teams) currently face

1. Expansion of Responsibilities

In a CCBJ report on the role of the General Counsel, 87% of all respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the role of the GC was expanding – and becoming more influential. As compliance risks increase, the GC’s voice is becoming more important, evolving into an even more strategic and influential partner for other senior executives.

As your legal leaders spend more time building processes to manage the shifting risk-scape, they are hoping to delegate more operational decisions to their legal operations teams. (According to the FTI report, “53% are looking to delegate more operational decisions to the legal operations role so that the general counsel can focus on risk mitigation.”) This means that as the role of the GC expands to focus more on risk, the authority of the legal operations department increases as well.

2. Commitment to AI and Automation

Legal leaders are preparing for AI to affect and improve their operations, even as they worry about the risks that AI introduces to their companies and the world. Many legal teams are hoping to leverage their technology providers to direct the benefits of these new legal trends to their space.

In response, legal teams are focusing more and more on eliminating manual work –whether that calls for artificial intelligence or automation. 67% of legal leaders say they will focus on improving their departments volume of requests with automation. The CCBJ General Counsel survey specifies that teams are interested in streamlining operations with optimized workflows (46%), improving interdepartmental alignment (44%), and automating manual tasks otherwise performed by team members (42%).

With a combination of AI and automation, legal teams are especially hoping to curtail time wasted on contract review that could otherwise be automated. One respondent in the FTI report mentioned, “We are doing more on contract automation and contract review. I want to work in a world where I never look at an NDA again, which I think is a total waste of time.”

3. More Collaboration Tools, More Anxiety

The proliferation of digital communication tools has introduced new risks related to data security and management. The report identifies a significant increase in these challenges – and how much they affect legal leaders. In 2023, 45% of participants said that they experienced new challenges associated with emerging data sources, and in 2024, this figure increased to 62%.

Or, in other words: more collaboration tools, more contract anxiety. To manage these new vulnerabilities, legal teams are turning to contract lifecycle management to channel the flood of data into a single source of truth that can manage large data sets while keeping their company compliant. The report noted the legal trend that 25% of legal leaders are planning to purchase a contract lifecycle management tool for the coming year, giving them the opportunity to streamline their work while also ensuring that data is properly stored and managed.

Shifting Mentality Towards Technology Among Legal Leaders

Legal leaders are identifying technology as one key strategy to stay on top of their risk and business management strategies. In fact, over 75% of the respondents to the survey suggested that they would invest further in their tech stack in the coming year. In an ideal world, these technologies will be managed on the ground by their legal operations team. By doubling down on investments in technology – especially CLM and AI – legal leaders can anticipate a cultural shift in the field. Legal will become more business-focused as teams become more efficient, continuing to elevate the department into a center of automation and acceleration.

Legal teams face tremendous opportunities to leverage tools and platforms to centralize their data, improve their processes, and work with artificial intelligence and automation for huge efficiency gains. When they do so, they will relieve their legal leadership and give them time to focus on the regulatory risks that are top of mind today. By preparing for the future with a combination of high level strategy and a review of the processes that work – and could be improved – legal teams offer new ways to mitigate risks while driving efficiency and trust.

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