The results of, and some thoughts prompted by, the survey of In-house Lawyers Group members ahead of this year’s annual conference, as seen by the ILG vice chair

The In-house Lawyers Group (ILG) did a members’ survey before our annual conference this year. This was connected to the topics which were discussed on the day: practical topics which are relevant to all of us in-house lawyers in our daily working lives. These were: risk management and mitigation, knowledge sharing, mentoring, the independence referendum, social media, and improved business processes.

Not only did the results help our sponsors make sure their presentations were as relevant to us as possible, they also provide some very interesting insights into how we work and where there might be room for improvement in our legal teams and organisations. We could even use this as a benchmark going forward.

Here’s what the results said, and some food for thought for us in-house lawyers and ILG in areas where we could improve.

Risk managers or just risk spotters?

  • Most in-house lawyers see their role in managing risk within the organisation as a wider one of achieving intended outcomes rather than just identifying technical issues – but only just (57.5% v 42.5%). Although the comments suggest a theme that it is a bit of both.
  • One comment also said it is about identifying future risks as well as current ones, advising on the likelihood of them arising and how to mitigate them.

Food for thought: If we aren’t already, should we not be embracing this wider risk-management role?

Knowledge is power

  • We only sometimes do debriefs for the internal team when a significant project concludes (55.6% answered “sometimes”, with only 25.5% doing these “usually” or “always”).
  • More of us don’t have an easily accessible database for capturing/sharing in-house experience and knowledge (45.7% “no” v 38.1% “yes”), though some of us have one under construction (16.2%).
  • On the plus side it’s straightforward to find the relevant expert in most of our organisations (62.4% answered “straightforward”, although 27.9% answered “difficult”).

Food for thought: Could we be doing more to capture and share our knowledge?

Mentoring reaps rewards

  • Most of our organisations don’t have a mentoring scheme (56.9% have no scheme v 43.1% who do).
  • Only 15.7% of us have a mentor ourselves, but 80% of us think mentoring can be beneficial at any stage in your career.
  • Therefore there’s a gap between those of us who think mentoring is beneficial, to those of us who have a mentoring scheme, and another gap between those of us who are using that scheme.

Food for thought: If we do have a scheme, shouldn’t we be making the most of it ourselves? If we don’t have a scheme, we shouldn’t let this stop us – we could simply ask someone to mentor us or offer to mentor someone else. They will probably be flattered! ILG will be thinking about what we can do to help, including investigating what mentoring schemes are out there already that might help us.

Independence experts?

  • Almost half of us (46%) don’t know our devolution max from our devolution plus. Though some comments question whether the politicians know either!
  • The vast majority of us haven’t been asked for advice on the legal implications of Scottish independence (88.9%).
  • The most important issues for our organisations around independence and increased devolution are financial impact, including tax, costs of doing business and funding of public sector, job security, possible relocation to England, policy and legal/regulatory changes, and practical issues.

Food for thought: We may not all have been asked about it yet, but surely we need to be getting ready for this and being proactive about advising on it too! ILG will be doing what it can to help, e.g. by holding more events on this between now and 2014.

Social media savvy?

  • Most of us don’t have Facebook access at work via our employers’ devices (70.9% no), or an internal social media platform like IBM Connections, Jive or Yammer (81.5% no).
  • Some comments suggest employers may be bringing this in, however, so our answers could be different this time next year.

Food for thought: Are we and our organisations making the best use of social media? It is not going away, so we need to embrace it. ILG has already had some events on social media for lawyers and if you are interested in some more practical training, let us know.

Demonstrating our value

Good news here:

  • We typically do report on legal spend to our organisation (63.5%), and comments suggest this usually covers both external and internal legal spend.
  • We also capture feedback from our organisation on our performance, e.g. via surveys and performance review systems (70.5%), and participate in a performance management programme (76.3%).

And finally

Three other snippets from the survey results were:

  • Just over half of us have participated on an online seminar or webinar (54.6%).
  • Most of us instruct counsel direct (59.2%).
  • We don’t tend to deal with employment law advice – this is done by a separate department or outsourced.


The Author
Sara Scott is vice chair of the In-house Lawyers Group of the Law Society of Scotland  
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