Thomson Reuters in-house efficiency report – really?

Given that Thomson Reuters’ 2016 Legal Department In-Sourcing and Efficiency Report surveyed 429 attorneys and operational professionals in corporate legal departments – a sizeable number for any survey – the findings in relation to the use of legal department operations managers and technology range from a wasted opportunity to highly questionable.

The growth in dedicated LDOs is a trend being watched closely from a number of quarters, as corporate legal teams mature and increasingly hand over responsibility to dedicated professionals.

The report claims that 21% of departments now have a LDO. It says: “LDO professionals represent a meaningful opportunity for departments to drive greater efficiencies. It’s a way to empower in-house attorneys to spend more time on the actual practice of law. LDO professionals are also a key way to drive change through implementing new technologies and legal project management. The innovative practices LDOs are creating and perfecting will eventually become industry standards that see widespread adoption among legal departments.”

We could have told you that. But how that 21% measures up to wider expectation or how the role of LDO is evolving, we are none the wiser.

When it comes to technology, legal departments are, we learn from the report, prioritising electronic document storage above all other means to efficiency. Fifty three percent either have or are currently “migrating to electronic document storage,” while another 19% intend to do so within the next year. That figure seems enormous, particularly given that only 32% of legal teams say they have or are working on a paperless policy and 15% are planning one for the coming year. However, we are given nothing by way of explanation and there is no direct electronic storage comparator, as it didn’t feature in Thomson Reuters’ 2015 legal department and in-sourcing efficiency report.

Implementing a document management system is high on the agenda, according to the 2016 report, and 35% of corporate teams either have or are implementing a DMS, with a further 21% planning to in the coming year.

However, overall the report gives testament to a dramatic decrease in the use of tech within corporate legal teams: matter management systems are in place within 21% of teams as opposed to 33% last year. eBilling is down from 25% to 21%. Knowledge management systems are down from 14% to 11%. Legal hold is down from 33% to 26%. And ‘eDiscovery’ has dropped from being used by 21% of teams to 9%.

As to why the drop might have occurred, one reason could be an increase in the number of small legal departments that responded to this year’s survey.

Beyond that, the analysis goes as follows: “The decline in ediscovery technology might be attributed to the low number of legal departments handling litigation and ediscovery in-house; additionally, rather than keeping ediscovery tools in-house, legal departments are influencing the tools used by their law firms for this purpose.”

It adds: “The declines are among the signs that not enough departments are deploying technology to achieve greater productivity.”

Really, Thomson Reuters? Its corporate tag line is ‘the answer company’ but this report presents nothing but questions.