General Counsels (GCs) at European firms are adapting their roles and becoming more strategic. And it’s the largest organizations who are embracing technological solutions to achieve their business goals. That’s according to the General Counsel Barometer 2017, released today by Wolters Kluwer’s ELM Solutions.

38% of respondents stated that their role has become increasingly strategic in the last three  years, but differences between a countries’ strategic focus was apparent. 47% of U.K. respondents feel their focus has been increasingly strategic, with this figure falling to 44% among Germany-based organizations and 39% among those headquartered in France.  Alignment with business strategy will provide a major focus for legal departments. 54% say that in the next three years their role will develop with an ever increasing focus on strategy.

There is, interestingly, evidence of a gulf between the survey’s largest and smallest companies’ adoption of technology to manage contracts, matter management, e-billing and compliance - with the larger organizations using technology as an enabler to manage manual processes so they can concentrate on strategic work. Adoption of technology is most prevalent in the finance and banking sector (68%), arguably due to stringent regulation in the sector. 

“This survey supports the notion that legal departments outside those in the largest organizations often find themselves tied into functional roles because they lack the resources to become more strategic,” says Mark Stapleton, EMEA managing director for Wolters Kluwer’s ELM Solutions. “If GCs use technology to automate certain processes, they can free up lawyers to focus on the bigger picture and also reduce outside counsel costs. Unlike at larger companies where GCs are demanded to be strategic, technology can actually enable forward thinking GCs in smaller companies to be proactive in this area.”

Notably, respondents were split on how they manage and evaluate their outsourced work. 34% stated they have a panel of legal providers “and use legal spend and matter data to measure their performance against goals and guidelines.” In the finance and banking sector, this figure rose to 50%, and to 42% among those in energy and utilities.