Below is the introduction to Data & Analytics: Transforming Corporate Legal Departments. The complete report is available on the ALM Intelligence website.

 

The role of general counsel has undeniably changed in recent years, both in terms of scope and importance within the corporate suite. The rise of the empowered general counsel — a department leader that is simultaneously legal advisor, risk and crisis manager, corporate conscience, and strategic business partner — has resulted in corporate legal departments becoming integral to enterprise decision-making.

With increased responsibility and greater visibility, however, has come more scrutiny. Law departments, long considered black boxes to outsiders, have found their budgets subject to the parameters traditionally applied to all other corporate business units. As a consequence, gone are the days where fees paid to outside counsel to mitigate risk and solve problems are largely unquestioned.

Meanwhile, in-house organizations, in this era of tight budgets, are confronting unprecedented challenges. They are being forced to expand their already wide-ranging legal expertise in order to navigate volatile regulatory environments that now stretch across the globe. Those responsibilities have been made more difficult by rapid advances in technology. New technologies have given rise to new concerns and also resulted in additional regulatory uncertainty.

In this atmosphere, “doing more with less” while continuing to demonstrate value is a difficult proposition, especially given that corporate legal departments are primarily viewed as a cost center. In response, forward-thinking in-house leaders, often with operations professionals by their side, have sought to change the way legal services are evaluated and delivered.

And so it is, at a time of substantial need — when resources are scarce and problems are many — data presents an opportunity for in-house organizations. Legal departments have always been awash in data, but now advances in technology have changed the game.

Data, whether big or small, is a raw material; it does not have intrinsic value. To extract its value, data must be refined through analysis. Driven forward by the creation of larger data sets and the widespread availability of the software necessary to conduct efficient analysis, businesses are frequently turning to data analytics to improve outcomes. In the wake of the global economic downturn, some in-house legal departments have sought to do the same.

Though the image of the tech-averse lawyer is pervasive, analytics is a natural extension of the work lawyers complete. For attorneys, evidence-based decision-making is paramount. Lawyers, as a matter of course, serve their clients by conducting research to gather facts in support of a conclusion. The detail-oriented work required to be an effective lawyer is also necessary to succeed as a data analyst.

More than ever before, the corporate law department is a significant force in shaping the future of the businesses they serve, and with that comes a consistent stream of challenges. But, expert-driven, outward-looking law departments are not daunted. They are seizing the opportunity presented by data and analytics, and they are, as a result, transforming their legal departments.

Download the complete report here.