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Benchmark Report: How In-House Legal Says It’s Pivoting (or Not) in the Wake of COVID-19

June 15, 2020 3 min read

As the fallout from COVID-19 continues to disrupt business, how are in-house legal teams prioritizing or de-prioritizing technology, focusing on specific contract clauses and grappling with remote-first work cultures?

For answers, as part of a larger TechGC Benchmark Survey, Ironclad asked TechGC members a series of five open-ended questions related to how they are adapting to the new normal. Here’s what we found.

What tech, services or platforms has your legal department prioritized in light of COVID-19?

Six out 10 (61%) respondents noted they were staying the course. Sample responses included:

“None really; it’s austerity time…”

“Nothing in particular that wasn’t in place before COVID-19.”

Of those who did cite prioritizations, four in 10 (41%) mentioned contract management and related variants — such as “CMS” and “contract workflow” — or specific vendors (e.g., DocuSign, Ironclad, SimpleLegal).

What tech, service or platforms has your legal department deprioritized in light of COVID-19?

Dramatically, seven out of 10 (73%) noted they were not emphasizing new technology (“Everything we’d consider is delayed…”).

Of those who did cite deprioritization, only contract management reached double figures.

What contract data has become or is becoming more essential to track in light of COVID-19?

Almost four in 10 (38%) said it was business as usual, despite the changing economic climate, which has led to workforce downsizing and event cancellation. For those who did prioritize contract data, not surprisingly, termination and force majeure clauses dominated the responses, each being cited by more than a third of respondents.

Note: 11% of respondents cited a combination of both termination and force majeure contract types.

From business risk to understanding corporate obligations, what are your biggest concerns with the advent of a remote-first work environment brought on by COVID-19?

Here, unlike the other four categories, a very low percentage, only one in eight (13%), cited no concerns.

“We have been remote-friendly from the start.”

“We were already set up to easily work from home.”

Of those that did note increased concerns, data security (encompassing data privacy) rose to the top, cited by almost a quarter (24%), followed by employee health and well-being (encompassing morale, safety and engagement), and productivity.

“My general concern is that I don’t believe I am fully aware of all of the potential legal issues that a remote-first workplace entails… I am concerned with information security obligations…”

“[There is] less information flowing to the legal department because remote work exacerbates siloing. I am not cc’d on emails, so I do not hear about things [as] I would in the office.”

How are you facilitating remote contract collaboration and negotiation as a result of COVID-19?

More than a third (36%) cited no change from the pre-COVID-19 landscape.

“We already operated across multiple offices, so we were well set up to adapt to the new WFH environment.“

“We use Ironclad; operates the same in WFH as it does in person.”

Predictably, of those who cited taking an action, popular services enabling remote collaboration dominated the results, with Zoom mentioned in almost half of the responses (48%).

Notes: 1) Taken as an aggregate, more than eight in 10 (86%) said they were facilitating remote collaboration via Zoom, Google or video or some combination of the three; 2) Google encompasses G-Suite, Docs, Hangouts, Meet.

More on our TechGC Survey and business continuity

For our summary of the survey’s topline results, go here. Then for more insight on keeping distributed teams operationally effective during a time of business uncertainty, watch our on-demand panel with senior legal leaders from Google, L’Oréal USA and Mastercard.

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