In-house counsel bullish on tech helping to reduce workload in downturn

In-house counsel are bullish on leveraging technology as a resource to help them reduce their workload in the face of hiring freezes, a survey of 450 legal professionals out this week shows.

The survey by contract management vendor Lexion shows that while 65% of legal professionals are worried about the impact of an uncertain economy and 69% anticipate spending cuts, 70% believe that technology helps to increase efficiency in a downturn and 44% expect to add a technology to increase efficiency.

The survey polled people in a range of in-house roles, from contracts managers and paralegals to general counsel.

With rising inflation and interest rates it is unsurprising that respondents are worried about economic uncertainty. 40% of respondents said that it was likely or very likely that their organisation is going to slow down or freeze hiring and 22% said they plan to pause or reduce hiring for the legal department specifically – although let’s not forget that leaves 78% that say they are not going to reduce hiring.

With in-house teams often struggling with lack of resource, it’s interesting – albeit perhaps unsurprising – to note that many of the tasks that in-house legal professionals struggle with are solvable by technology. After lack of resources and people, respondents cited time wasted to keep track of documents & versions, and being buried in low value tasks as the top challenges that keep them from doing their job well.

Speaking to Legal IT Insider, Gaurav Oberoi, CEO and co-founder of Lexion said: “The thing that we hear loud and clear is that they don’t expect headcount to grow and we have seen lots of departments shrink, so they are not going to be able to throw more bodies at the problem. But through us and other vendors, technology can make things more efficient.”

He added: “We see a big change from five years ago when in-house teams would find a cheaper intern or firm – now they are looking at applying technology.”

Top of the purchasing list of new technology is eSignature tools, followed by a raft of different contract solutions; legal task management; file folder storage; and general project management tools – see image below.

You can see interactive highlights of the report and all the stats here –

And the full report here:

Commenting on the findings, David Wang, chief innovation officer at Wilson Sonsini – an investor in Lexion – said: “My call to action for anyone reading this report is to take note of the macro trends affecting our industry but not fall victim to them. Leverage the information available and make the case with your organization that now is the time to innovate and invest in technology. Don’t just do more with less, as is so often demanded of us. Do more important things with more innovative methods and technologies.”

Lexion recently won LegalTech Breakthrough’s award for the best use of AI in contract management.