GC Strategy Summit: What gets in-house lawyers talking?

What is on the minds of in-house legal teams? This week at The Lawyer’s annual GC Strategy Summit, delegates answered.

The two-day conference, which this year moved from windy Lisbon to the (slightly) sunnier Asia Gardens Hotel in Southern Spain, has been attended by nearly 100 delegates from companies ranging from BP and BT, to MoneySuperMarket.com and Graze.com.

In the first day of the conference, the major complaint was that “in-house lawyers are spending too much time on the unneccesary”, according to one attendee – such as non-disclosure agreements and contracts drafting.

Many more have to deal with the mundane alone. In-house teams vary in size per company, but a persistent argument is that leading a legal function can be a lonely role. How can you cope with the swathe of regulation and compliance issues alongside the daily grind?

One aspect improving work in-house is technology, although it is still not up to scratch. Figures shared at the conference estimate that just 5 per cent of in-house teams use automated contract drafting, with artificial intelligence being adopted at an even slower rate. The explanation for slow adoption is ironic but understandable – in-house lawyers are simply too busy to identify and buy time-saving technology solutions.

Despite much hype over legal technology, the benefits do not appear to have quite filtered down to all the in-house community. However, pilot schemes and projects are nevertheless being deployed in some companies.

Former ASDA lawyer Alastair Maiden, now founder of his own company Syke, described how he transformed the retailer’s contracts process by rationalising procedures, introducing consistent methods and bringing technological solutions on-board. But he warned that businesses could become “victims of their own success” if increased efficiency results in more work landing on the legal team’s desk.

Ideas are shared through roundtable sessions varying from 21st century investigations chaired by PwC, dawn raids presented by Millnet and data protection hosted by Monckton Chambers. Data protection is a hot topic among in-house lawyers, as they prepare for next May’s stricter penalties in cases of data breaches.

“There’s little out there which lists the practical steps we need to take,” said one panellist, berating the amount of time it may take in-house teams to complete data-mapping exercises and enforce procedures.

Other roundtables at the summit are being chaired by Berwin Leighton Paisner senior partner Neville Eisenberg, Clyde & Co arbitration co-chair Peter Hirst, as well as teams from Eversheds Sutherland and Travers Smith.

After a gala dinner this evening, the event will conclude tomorrow after further panel discussions on cyber crime and resource management. The latter will no doubt provide some helpful advice to lawyers inundated with new rules and procedures – and who are “spending too much time on the unneccesary”.

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