The artificial intelligence platform Onit, which specializes in the legal industry, recently unveiled a report on the reputation of corporate legal affairs departments.
The verdict: Companies don’t trust their lawyers as much as they should.
Conducted by research firm Provoke Insights with 4,500 respondents in the US, France, UK and Germany, the survey looks at corporate legal teams through the eyes of employees.
Although legal counsel are seen as the protectors of the business by four in five respondents (78%), their relationships with other departments vary greatly.
In human resources and finance departments, for example, 62% report a positive relationship. In comparison, the proportion drops to less than 40% for employees in technical support, marketing and purchasing.
Worse, less than half of respondents (46%) view their colleagues in the legal department as “trusted advisors.”
Legal advisers also do not make good business partners. This is at least the opinion of more than seven out of ten respondents (73%).
How can these lackluster results be explained? The report attempts a few answers.
The “no” department
While the legal service is an authority in companies, its lack of accessibility is greatly criticized.
For example, 22% of employees see it as the “no” department, the one that adds unnecessary barriers. Three out of five respondents (61%) also consider it “inaccessible, inefficient, bureaucratic and full of pitfalls”.
In France, 58% believe that legal advisers create a rigid corporate culture.
On the other side of the Channel, the situation is not much better. For example, 10% of respondents in the UK describe legal teams as ‘uninvolved’, while nearly one in 10 (9%) give them the unflattering label of ‘bottleneck’. Some even see the legal department as “a reluctant partner.”
This is what the researchers of the study call the “paradox of perception”. According to them, the legal department was designed specifically to set clear boundaries in how a company protects and promotes itself. It must be unwavering in its policies and not in nuance. It is therefore normal that he is inflexible.
A late response
The legal team’s response time is one of its worst flaws, according to respondents. Overall, 61% believe it is not responsive enough.
Although 60% note that it is a matter of days before they receive an answer to their requests, one French respondent in five and one respondent in 10 in the United States and Germany speak of a delay of several weeks or more.
Staff shortages and high workloads partly explain this reality, but forced home working due to the pandemic has exacerbated the problem. Two in five respondents also see the legal department as less transparent since COVID.
For all these reasons, employees bypass the department that they consider an inconvenience.
As many as 65% of employees admit to intentionally bypassing services or legal processes, even though they knew it was against company policies.
The employees did not hesitate to detail their reasons. It is bureaucracy that pushes one out of three workers to act in this way. UK employees also think the team is slowing things down. Same thing for the French, who blame his response time.
Technology to the rescue
To correct this, the report’s makers suggest investing in technology solutions for internal teams.
The study notes that artificial intelligence and other automation tools improve the speed of the legal department by 25%, which could also ease strained relationships.
Above all, the researchers believe in the urgency of acting. “The legal department cannot remain alone on its island,” they say. It must replace its image of inconvenience with that of ally by collaborating more, by sharing the same corporate culture and by adopting advanced tools.
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Companies don’t trust their lawyers
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