More than three-quarters (78%) of general counsel lack separate budgets for process and technology services, despite exactly the same percentage identifying a “compelling need” for them, a survey has found.
Nonetheless, two-thirds of GCs had invested in process or technology with an external supplier in the last two years.
The survey of 53 GCs was carried out by Radiant Law, which combines fixed-fee legal advice with advising firms on how to handle high volumes of commercial contracts, outsourcing and IT. Based in London and South Africa, the alternative business structure employs around 30 lawyers out of 40 staff.
Paul Gilbert, a former GC and the chief executive of the consultancy LBC Wise Counsel, said in his commentary for the survey: “To have a compelling need, but have no budgetary control is potentially ‘creek, canoe, no paddle’ territory. It is, however, fascinating to know that three-quarters of the respondents describe their needs as ‘compelling’.”
Mr Gilbert said that while IT departments often had an “iron grip” on questions of compatibility and maintenance, “with so many reputable solutions now available, often hosted, often more secure than the company’s own infrastructure, it is a critical area for in-house teams to assert themselves in”.
He questioned why 35% of GCs had not invested anything in process or technology over the last two years, despite the “starting gun” being fired a while ago.
The survey found that 19% of GCs “never” formally assessed what was available in the market for process and technology support, while 44% only assessed the market “when they think about it”.
In contrast, 17% said they formally assessed what was available every year, and 8% every two or three years.
On the obstacles to investment, 36% cited uncertain value and outcomes for the business as the biggest obstacle, with 28% saying it was cost.
A further 13% said their biggest obstacle was the failure of IT departments to prioritise investment.
Alex Hamilton, chief executive of Radiant Law, commented: “The pressure is cranking up internally to deliver more for less, but the wheels are not yet in motion to deal with it.
“There’s a greater sense that things need to change, but when we look at who is implementing change, it’s a minority.
“Following the early adopters, the early majority are starting to pay attention but there’s a great deal of caution about how to make it work.”
Mr Hamilton went on: “In-house lawyers have always struggled to get the attention of IT – I’ve never understood why.
“Without taking control of your destiny, you’re never going to make it work. It’s a conservative market, but the reality is that business as usual will no longer work.”