Newsroom

Press Releases

ARLINGTON, Va., August 6, 2020

Gartner Survey Reveals Legal Leaders Are Struggling with Their Workload Since COVID-19

Target Common Inefficiencies to Alleviate Pressure on the Legal Team

Sixty-eight percent of legal and compliance leaders are struggling to manage their current workload, as legal department plans have been significantly disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and economic upheaval, according to a survey by Gartner, Inc. Departments report a higher volume of work relating to labor and employment (44%), government affairs and relations (42%) and regulatory and compliance matters (39%) according to a June poll of 286 legal leaders.

“Nearly two thirds of legal leaders tell us they have been pulling resources from other workstreams to support unplanned work since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Vidhya Balasubramanian, managing vice president in the Gartner’s Legal and Compliance practice. “This added burden of unplanned work comes at a time when every department is facing severe cutbacks to mitigate the ongoing economic effects of COVID-19.”

Gartner’s research showed that unplanned work is particularly taxing on legal departments because of the persistent inefficiencies and waste in the legal department’s typical approach to new and emerging issues. These inefficiencies fall into two broad categories of over-analysis and overspending (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Common Legal Inefficiencies with Unplanned Work

Source: Gartner (August 2020), n=286

“Twenty percent of the time spent on unplanned work is wasted,” said Ms. Balasubramanian. “That’s over a thousand work hours in a year at a typical $1 billion company with 10 full time employees in the legal department. As legal departments address more complex and unpredictable issues, their workload will only continue to increase, and most are not addressing the sources of this waste and inefficiencies.”

Decision Principles

The key to reclaiming some of those wasted hours is to embed decision principles with lawyers to reduce the inefficiencies in their execution of unplanned, high-urgency work. This approach improved performance more than twice as much as early identification of emerging issues, another approach to mitigating the fallout from unplanned work.

This means leaders need to update lawyers regularly on appropriate risk posture for different kinds of work and provide a defined approach for communicating this posture to outside counsel. It’s also important to guide resourcing decisions by clarifying how to act on unplanned work, offering a clear overview of all the external resources at lawyers’ disposal, and codifying the categories of outside counsel and alternative legal services, and when it is appropriate to engage them.

“Decision principles need to be both broad enough to be useful as guidance for different scenarios, yet prescriptive enough to direct the desired response,” said Ms. Balasubramanian. “This will reduce the over-conservatism that can slow legal departments and their business clients, and preempt the rampant escalation, rework, and duplication of work within legal departments.”

Yet, currently, fewer than one in three legal leaders embed decision principles for unplanned work. Common objections are that risk tolerance changes too quickly with emerging issues to set fixed decision principles, and that lawyers tend to resist any complex constraints on the resources they may use because they believe decisions rules will diminish the quality of legal advice they can give.

“Think more in terms of establishing a process to guide risk tolerance for resourcing decisions, rather than a fixed set of rules,” said Ms. Balasubramanian. “Counterintuitively, with new and emerging issues, departments need more mechanisms to resolve grey area issues, not less.”

Gartner for Legal & Compliance Leaders clients can access the full research in Efficiency in Legal’s Unplanned Work.

Non-clients can find many complimentary pieces of content and research at Gartner’s coronavirus site.

About the Gartner Legal & Compliance Practice

The Gartner Legal & Compliance practice supports senior legal and compliance executives with their most critical priorities. Gartner offers a unique breadth and depth of content to support clients’ individual success and deliver on key initiatives that cut across finance functions to drive business impact. Learn more at https://www.gartner.com/en/legal-compliance/role/legal-compliance-leaders.

About Gartner

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) is the world’s leading research and advisory company and a member of the S&P 500. We equip business leaders with indispensable insights, advice and tools to achieve their mission-critical priorities today and build the successful organizations of tomorrow.

Our unmatched combination of expert-led, practitioner-sourced and data-driven research steers clients toward the right decisions on the issues that matter most. We are a trusted advisor and an objective resource for more than 14,000 enterprises in more than 100 countries — across all major functions, in every industry and enterprise size.

To learn more about how we help decision makers fuel the future of business, visit gartner.com.

Contacts