Why should corporate legal functions transform?

Areas where legal teams can create value

Question: Why should corporate legal functions transform?

Answer: Corporate legal departments should transform when doing so will enhance the service they provide to their businesses.

Legal departments that want and need to better serve their clients should look to transform. Corporate legal teams—indeed, the legal profession as a whole—have tended to operate in ways that are distinct from the larger business world. There are many reasons for this (some laudable, and others not), but the result is that businesses now commonly want, and demand, that their attorneys advise them more quickly, more effectively (e.g., through more practical, actionable advice that considers the needs, opportunities, and risk tolerances of the business), and for less cost. Many modern, effective legal departments have transformed to deliver legal services in this way—providing law at the speed of business.

Legal departments that transform are often able to achieve significant improvements in how they serve their business clients, including:

  • Enabling their legal teams to focus on legal matters that are strategically significant to the business, rather than the lower-value work that often absorbs significant attorney time and energy (work that frequently can be handled in alternative ways)
  • Empowering the business to self-serve regarding matters that may not require, but often occupy, the legal team
  • Accelerating the speed of responding to business needs
  • Enhancing the ability of the legal team to anticipate the legal needs of the business, and increasing the nuance and effectiveness of the legal advice the legal team provides
  • Identifying and addressing the unspoken assumptions that often separate legal teams and the business (regarding risk tolerance, the role of legal vs. the role of the business, the expectations of regulators, and the like), thereby breaking down the silos (and even outright rifts) that otherwise may arise.

Transformed legal departments often also better serve their internal stakeholders, for instance by:

  • Creating a shared vision and understanding of the mission, role, and strategic approach of the legal team, and aligning the team to execute accordingly
  • Clarifying priorities, and freeing the legal team to focus on matters that matter
  • Removing non-strategic legal—and non-legal—work from the legal team’s docket
  • Maximizing efficiency by driving collaboration and communication, and reducing lower-value activities
  • Generating resiliency and reducing complexity
  • Balancing workloads more effectively
  • Creating better career paths, professional development opportunities, and employee experiences for legal teams, helping retain valued employees and attracting the talent the legal team will need in the coming years.

Legal department transformation thus serves both the client and the legal advisors on whom the client depends.

It also drives progress in the legal profession as a whole. Corporate legal departments, collectively, are among the largest, most sophisticated providers—and buyers—of legal services in the world. What corporate legal departments do, how they act, and what they prioritize reverberates not only among their own legal teams and business clients, but in law firms, governments, law schools, and even in the law itself. When corporate legal departments accelerate—demanding more, different, and better from themselves—law firms will follow (with a series of cascading effects). When corporate legal departments prioritize qualities such as diversity and inclusion, law firms will likely follow (as will the rest of the legal profession). When corporate legal departments modernize and leverage technology, law firms will likely follow (as will the rest). For each of these examples, there are a hundred more. Thus, the cumulative effect of corporate legal department transformation can and will be much larger than a specific efficiency gain here, or cost savings there. Ultimately, legal operations transformation means transforming the very profession of law.

KPMG LLP does not provide legal services.

Contact us

Eric Gorman

Eric Gorman

Principal, Forensic & Legal Operations Transformation Services, KPMG US

+1 312 665 1068
Kimberly Majure

Kimberly Majure

Principal, International Tax & Legal Operations Transformation Services, KPMG US

+1 202-533-5270
Jeff Ikejiri

Jeff Ikejiri

Principal, Tax & Legal Operations Transformation Services, KPMG US

+1 703-286-8000