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Pros and cons of technology support within the legal department

The larger the legal department, the more likely it has its own employees support at least some of its software and hardware. No data exists that I know of that tells us the tipping point, where departments typically hire their own technology talent. Most legal departments, and all smaller departments, rely on personnel from the corporate IT function for their support, training, and development needs (See my post of June 16, 2009: Information Technology staff group with 23 references and 1 metapost.).

There are advantages and disadvantages to each solution. If you have in your department’s headcount one or more information systems staff, it:

  1. Raises your fully-loaded cost per lawyer;
  2. Uses headcount;
  3. Consumes some budget, especially if there is no chargeback from internal IT;
  4. Might make it hard for that staff to draw on the expertise of corporate IT;
  5. Leaves you no back up for periods of illness or vacation;
  6. Exposes you to turnover and periods of no support;
  7. Burdens you with recruitment, evaluations and personnel headaches; and
  8. May limit you to employees with less background in technology.

The benefits of home-grown talent are also many. Your own staff:

  1. Get to know you and your colleagues far better when they are embedded;
  2. Follow the work priorities you set;
  3. Fill the profile of skills and personality you want;
  4. Serve as a liaison that is informed and committed with corporate systems staff;
  5. Bring up ideas learned from reading and other law departments;
  6. Think more creatively, unencumbered by broader corporate constraints; and
  7. Stay longer term, instead of rotating out.
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