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Webinar report: Delawyering

‘People don’t want lawyers; they want the outcomes lawyers produce’
Richard Susskind

Digital transformation. Global businesses with complex organisational structures. GDPR and ever evolving financial regulations - not to mention the growing focus on environmental, social and governance issues.

There’s no doubt that the corporate legal workload is ballooning right now. According to Thomson Reuters’ 2020 Benchmark Report, 68% of in-house lawyers say they grew busier over the preceding 12 months. So what’s the answer? Recruit more lawyers? Outsource more work to law firms? Tempting surely, yet both have significant drawbacks over the long term. Which is why delawyering has become a recurring theme in recent years.


To learn more about this idea, we were recently joined by Victoria Swedjemark for an interactive webinar session. Victoria is a Partner at strategy and management consulting firm, Venturis Consulting Group and the Founder of Glowmind, the business that helps legal leaders develop their teams and departments. 

Essentially, delawyering is about aligning a growing workload to available resources, including technology. Fundamental principles include:

  • Moving lawyers out of some work that doesn’t require a lawyer – or even any human involvement at all;
  • Moving from a high-touch to a low-touch approach; and 
  • Finding smart new ways to scale legal work and know-how to overcome human limitations

For many legal functions, this may involve looking at where there is both over-investment and under-investment in three key dimensions: 

  • Operative – which includes the routine, recurring day-to-day tasks;
  • Tactical – how legal supports critical projects and works with business stakeholders; and
  • Strategic – how legal helps to build the organisation’s long-term competitiveness.

Deploying lawyers effectively

Another key consideration is exactly how we use lawyers’ time. In an ideal world, the only types of work that highly trained and expensive lawyers should be doing falls into four categories:

  • Specialised – work that requires advanced legal training and/or extensive relevant experience;
  • Complex – projects that call for intricate problem-solving skills, extensive coordination and oversight;
  • High risk – where the organisation is potentially exposed to financial or reputational cost; and
  • High value – where the work adds substantial value to the organisation.

Five pillars of a delawyering strategy

Victoria set out five key areas that organisations can use to create a delawyering strategy:

1 Empowering others to do legal work
By equipping people broadly in the business, including people who are not trained lawyers, to handle routine legal tasks. As a first step it can involve doing this within the legal team, such as through paralegals and admin staff, but then these efforts can be extended it into your internal client teams, i.e. the business.

2. Business embedment
Getting the management of legal aspect of your business embedded into its processes and systems will go a long way to reducing the legal team’s involvement in day-to-day enquiries from stakeholders. This is about operationalising the legally preferred business behaviour into something that effectively “comes alive” in everyday business, in behaviours, tech people are using and so on. 

3 Scaling legal know-how
There’s probably a great deal more knowledge across your legal team than you know of, and more work than you might think involves recurring problems or requests. If you can capture and package that knowledge and those work efforts, you’ll be well placed to share and reuse legal know-how quickly and effectively, avoiding people reinventing the wheel. 

4 Technology
Self-service functionality for routine legal enquiries – or using the ‘robot lawyers’ to read through contracts or other documents can speed up workflows and free up significant time for senior lawyers. How much day-to-day work could be automated? Automated workflows can operate 24/7 all year round, as opposed to the bottle necks that often build up in doing things manually. E-signatures and automated reporting, information collection or reminders are some examples. 

5 Data
There’s a lot of buzz around data analysis now – and for good reason. Capturing and analysing legal work and experiences in data sets really can enhance human performance. This is about using data analytics to better qualify or assess legal risks or outcomes in disputes, creating something more powerful and more time efficient than a single lawyer’s stand-alone analysis based on individual experience. As everybody is moving to data informed decision-making, so much Legal. 

Thinking of delawyering? You’re in good company

Delawyering and the thinking behind it is prevalent in many large and modern organisations across the world. 

For example:

“We try to really focus on scaling the legal department. We need to have more impact with our limited resources and must get creative and innovative about how we can operate and deliver the same quality - but in a different way. We multiply legal’s impact by driving innovation, operational excellence and focused execution.”

Mary O’Carroll, Director of Legal Operations, Technology and Strategy


“We must evolve our legal systems and how we perform legal work within them to provide speed, scale, quality and access. We must build the most optimsed version of ourselves and must strive for business velocity. A key driver is to enable the people to do work that requires human touch or judgment."

Jason Barnwell, Digital Transformation of Corporate, External and Legal Affairs


“People, process and technology are the golden triangle of our organisational change, I want to delawyer as much of our high-volume legal services as I can by investing in people who build processes and tools.”

Horatio Gutierrez, General Counsel and Vice President, Business and Legal Affairs 

Take the first steps

To help you plan your delawyering journey, Victoria set out five key steps. These should help you set out your starting point, your end goal and how you’ll get there:

  • Define Legal’s wider objective and how delawyering can help you achieve it;
  • Assess your current position and define your starting point;
  • Identify and agree the focus areas – what needs to change and when?
  • Set your roadmap; and
  • Get started!

Our next webinar with Victoria is 'Skills and mindsets for tomorrow' on 22 June. Secure your place here.

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