Covid-19, in-house lawyers struggle with workloads

Almost 70% of in-house lawyers are having a hard time dealing with unplanned and urgent work in the Covid-19 pandemic. This happens as the emergency situation increases their departments’ duties and shrinks budgets, according to a report by research organization Gartner, which surveyed 286 legal leaders.

Based on data from multiple surveys since the start of the pandemic, the Gartner Legal & Compliance practice found that two-thirds of in-house legal leaders are indeed struggling with their workload, and 74% say they are at least moderately burned out as a result of the pandemic. «This added burden of unplanned work comes at a time when every department is facing severe cutbacks to mitigate the ongoing economic effects of Covid-19», said Vidhya Balasubramanian, managing vice president in the Gartner’s Legal and Compliance practice.

According to the report, about half of legal departments say their 2020 plans have been heavily disrupted by the pandemic. The main matters contributing to the workload are labor and employment at 44%, government affairs and relations at 42%, and regulatory and compliance at 39%. However, about 20% of hours spent on unplanned work winds up wasted, the report underlines. That’s why legal departments have to find efficient ways to manage unplanned work.

Furthermore, 55% of the participants use their default outside counsel while 53% spend a lot of time reworking what outside counsel submitted as guidance. Half of the participants are exceeding budgets to get a fast turnaround as more unplanned work is classified as urgent under Covid-19. Also, about one in three anticipates that the department budget will be cut by at least 10% by the end of the year.