Diversity, equality, technology and fees top of general counsel agenda

The rising confidence and power of in-house legal departments is set to put equality and diversity, technology, and reform of legal fees at the centre of a wide-ranging change in legal services.

These are the conclusions of an MD Communications White Paper ‘Demanding answers: How general counsel are changing legal services’, published at the International Bar Association’s annual conference, Seoul, South Korea. The white paper follows in-depth conversations with senior and general counsel, including GSK, BT Group, Fulham Football Club, News UK, Samsung Engineering, Uber and many other high-profile names.

The paper also confirms the ongoing relevance of the legal directories to tenders and selection processes, and notes initiatives launched by Chambers and Partners and The Legal 500 to reflect the ever-growing importance of equality and diversity to clients. ‘Diversity is unbelievably important and not just for the optics,’ Uber’s associate general counsel, Matt Wilson, tells the report.

Key conclusions:

  • Clients are more demanding around the equality and diversity make-up of the teams they instruct.
  • Poor and inflexible billing practices, and arrogance, are still losing law firms business.
  • Directory listings are a baseline for selecting law firms.
  • In-house legal departments are starting to develop their own legal tech solutions–rather than rely on tech vendors and law firms only.

Melissa Davis, managing director and founder of MD Communications said:

‘The rising confidence of in-house in calling the shots as clients is not a new theme, but the legal world landscape has changed in important and unexpected ways. Law’s #MeToo moments were hardly a consideration two years ago, and the pace of technological change has hastened. Law firms who succeed in an ever-more competitive legal services market will be the ones who listen to and partner with general counsel on these issues.’

Stephen Denyer, member of the management board of the International Bar Association and former global markets partner at Allen & Overy, wrote in the foreword to the white paper:

‘That in-house legal departments superintend many of the high-value fees that law firms seek is likely now obvious to all, but what comes through in the views illustrated in this paper is that general counsel and their colleagues are doing much more than demanding good service and a commercial approach because they manage their budgets and mandates with confidence. Increasingly, in-house are in the driving seat.’

Get a copy of the white paper

Share this post