Helping to lighten the load in Asia
Around the world, we are seeing a tightening of resource for lawyers both in private practice and in-house, while the demands on the role continue to increase.
In Singapore, the President of the Law Society, Adrian Tan, has highlighted this as a concern as many young lawyers are choosing to leave the legal profession. Whilst he was referring specifically to legal practice, it is without a doubt that the impact is also felt by lawyers in the in-house community. Obtaining work visas has also been increasingly challenging for companies in Singapore as there has been a strong focus on hiring Singaporeans through the pandemic. In Hong Kong, many international lawyers have decided to leave and return to their home countries due to travel restrictions as a result of the pandemic. All this has impacted the ability of in-house teams to retain and attract good lawyers with solid international experience and is driving up the market rate for these individuals. There has been much talk about how to stop the ‘great resignation’ in Asia, so what else can in-house legal teams do to manage their ever increasing workload amidst this tightening of the legal labor market?
Interim legal resourcing – forward planning is key. As soon as you know you will have a need for an interim legal resource, inform your service provider. The interim market moves fast and is itself impacted by lack of lawyers available. The earlier your service provider knows about your requirement, the better they are able to identify the right talent for you and reserve them for when you need them to start. Where possible, you should also be prepared to be flexible on your start date as some interim lawyers are keen to keep busy, whilst others are looking for breaks between assignments.
Be flexible – be open to lawyers who might not fit squarely with what you are looking for. Consider recruiting a more senior or more junior permanent or interim lawyer who might not have all the relevant experience. After all, to a certain extent, legal skills are transferable and for bright and experienced lawyers, legal skills and knowledge can be picked up very quickly.
Reorganize work internally – if your in-house legal team needs resourcing for a specific skill-set that is in great demand and not easily available in the market, consider if it is possible to reshuffle the work within your existing team, deploying team members who might already have some relevant experience. Maybe then look to backfill their roles with lawyers whose skills are more readily available in the interim or permanent market.
Look at doing existing work differently – if your endeavors to hire an additional headcount or get an suitable interim lawyer are proving futile, it might be worthwhile reviewing how things are currently done within your in-house legal team and explore ways you can streamline processes, realign work streams, or use new or existing legal technology to help lighten the workload for your existing team members. You could also identify work types currently handled by your legal team that could be outsourced to an external managed services team. There are experienced operators in the market, including Konexo, with a proven track record of delivering these services to major clients and are operating as an extension of their own in-house teams. We have been supporting clients on business-as-usual commercial contract work and loan management documentation for several years now, particularly in the financial services sector. The approach is tried and tested, providing a solution to the pressures around legal talent, as well as streamlining and automating high volume legal work, ultimately saving our clients’ time and costs. Whilst there is an initial period of investment in terms of time and money, this move ultimately allows clients to transfer the burden and risk of resignation and the resulting loss of knowledge, as well as hidden costs related to recruitment to the external managed service provider.