From practice in practice

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If you asked me for the current top five issues in my work, my immediate response would be “people and culture” times five. But on second thought, I would like to be a little bit more specific and focus on my in-house experience.

Business Law Magazine – Inhouse Top 5:

(1) People

Managing and maintaining our legal teams remains a challenge. The labor market for lawyers is – at least in Germany – very favourable. There are many more opportunities out there than before and people are becoming more flexible. So retaining your talents and adding new employees requires more attention than in the past few years. Attracting, motivating and retaining our staff is of tantamount importance – and is the solution for most of the other Top 5 issues. This goes hand in hand with the next issue.

(2) New work / culture

It is a given that our daily working routines have changed due to the pandemic. But in my view, we still have to get into the – often cited – “new work”. There are many models and every law firm and company is developing its own solutions. But in the end teams have to find new ways of cooperating themselves – before the pandemic it was mostly office work, during the pandemic it was mostly working from home. But how to make new hybrid approaches really work and how to avoid people working in their own “lanes” too much remains still a challenge. Creating social bonds between teams is more crucial than ever, both for daily work and also for maintaining real teams. And finally, this also contributes to the retention of team members. We have to “join the dots” between individual team members and individual tasks, responsibilities and projects, and once again this requires more attention than before.

(3) ESG

This is the next “buzz word” – but the impact of increased regulatory activities in this field is also adding to the workload of our legal teams. The topic in itself covers many areas and many functions in a company. Cross-departmental collaboration is required to tackle this challenge in an effective way and is also the big upside of this issue. Additionally, our legal teams have to identify regulatory requirements as they evolve and integrate them into the corporate governance of our companies (the latest example was the update of the German Corporate Governance Codex).

(4) Processes

Is there any light at the end of the tunnel when the workload keeps growing? I would be positive about this question and argue that we have to standardize those topics which have become part of the daily routine over the last years. If ESG is one of the new priorities, other topics will have to be de-prioritized. In my humble view, we as lawyers still tend to be too much drawn to the individual case. Constantly reviewing all tasks and topics in a legal team is a must – agreeing on the main topics, prioritizing tasks and allocating the workload should be a permanent part of discussions in a legal team. And this is a continuous process, not just an agenda item ticked off once-a-year.

(5) Tools & technology

Naturally, such a list cannot be complete without “legal tech”. But after ten years of watching and working on that topic I can only say there is no standard solution and no “plug&play”. Legal tech means that we have to know what we need and for which processes in our team. And then we have to work on it continuously – and once a tool has been established, we have to use it (lawyers are good at arguing for exceptions …).

So the good news is there is still plenty to do and achieve in 2023 and beyond.

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