In-house lawyers will need both investment and a more proactive approach to survive, says senior PwC exec
PwC is seeking to profit on the global downturn by offering companies advice on ways they can overhaul their in-house legal segments, to boost growth and cut costs.
The Big Four firm is claiming businesses must fundamentally transform their in-house legal departments, in order to survive in an increasingly competitive world.
This means turning risk avoidant lawyers into business savvy execs, Teresa Owusu-Adjei told City A.M., as she argued this transformation will require a fundamental “mindset shift”.
The accountancy chief said that PwC has learnt lessons from its wider consultancy practice, that it is now planning to apply to the legal industry – particularly regarding in-house lawyers.
“The legal mindset needs to change from ‘guardian of risk’ to ‘enabler of transformation,” Owusu-Adjei said, as she argued businesses must now reshape their in-house legal divisions.
Owusu-Adjei said that while general counsels (GCs) and in-house lawyers have traditionally focused on protecting businesses against risk, it is now vital they take an active approach in boosting growth.
She continued in arguing in-house legal departments have largely remained sheltered from the forces that have shaken the business world in recent years.
“Many in-house legal teams have not needed to change the way they work until now,” Owusu-Adjei said.
“While businesses have invested huge amounts of money in transformation over the last five years, legal is often an afterthought,” she explained.
In-house legal automation is coming
Owusu-Adjei, however, said UK businesses are now increasingly seeking to shake up their in-house legal segments, as they look to cut costs in the face of the economic downturn.
“Lawyers and in house legal teams can’t afford to do things in the way they’ve always done,” Owusu-Adjei said, as she argued technology has transformed the business world to its core, including in law.
Instead, the PwC exec argued in-house legal departments will be forced to begin automating and outsourcing much of the procedural work that has traditionally occupied their time.
She said the leaders of the UK’s top companies are now increasingly looking at their own firm’s legal divisions, in working out ways to cut costs.
She argued that outsourcing this bread-and-butter work will let in-house lawyers use their legal expertise to advise the businesses they work in.
Owusu-Adjei started at PwC in 1995, straight after completing a degree in maths and chemistry, before ascending the ranks of the accounting firm’s tax advisory business in London and New York.
The exec later became a partner in PwC’s tax business in 2008, before taking up the position as head of the firm’s legal segment two years ago.
Owusu-Adjei continued in arguing businesses are able to reduce their costs by outsourcing basic legal work to cheaper providers, while freeing up their own lawyers for more high-level tasks.
PwC’s law business itself offers legal outsourcing services to its clients, which it claims it is able to carry out more efficiently due to the size of its operations and the technology it has to hand.