As expected, one of the casualties we are seeing as companies are forced to tighten their economic belts is a reduction in law department headcount. Many may think that along with a reduction in staff comes a reduction in the amount of work as well, but in many cases it is quite the opposite. Many of our customers tell us that the Business As Usual, day-to-day work is multiplying exponentially. Having to "do more with less" is taking on a decidedly new meaning.
In the face of shrinking in-house lawyer count, now is the time to re-evaluate the priorities of the law department staff; asking in particular whether doing 'X' is the highest and best use. The routine, day-to-day work is often the most time consuming, and the easiest to outsource at a reasonable price, yet companies often consider the routine work as too small to address. Things like responding to subpoenas/ law enforcement requests or routine government inquiries; sending and responding to cease and desist letters; forming companies and the attendant issues that come with it; handling pre-litigation overtures or notice of disputes that might be prerequisites to arbitration claims, are all areas that can be handled more efficiently elsewhere in order to free up valuable in-house time.
Experts say that any time an in-house department reduces its ranks, it loses critical institutional and legal knowledge. And the typical challenges that come with layoffs have been compounded by changing rules and regulations amid the pandemic, as well as remote work environments that for some involve home-schooling children. Additionally, teams are juggling with how to handle different topics such as health and safety, privacy, employment and bankruptcy that have jumped to the fore of high-risk issues and priorities.