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Today’s pressures on in-house counsel: complexity, volume, velocity or all of the above?

For at least three reasons, few lawyers in-house are bored. From what I observe as a consultant, work is more difficult, there is more of it, and it arrives faster.

Legal complexity has increased (See my posts of March 13, 2007 on legal complexity and references cited; and Sept. 5, 2007 on contracts and complexity.). Complexity means that the number and inter-connections of applicable laws, decisions, and practices that touch a given legal problem have swollen significantly. In turn, legal complexity often means that a team of in-house lawyers — and often outside lawyers — might be needed to deal with a Hydra-headed issue. Not only legal sophistication, but the non-legal ramifications like reputation and governance have, well, ramified.

Legal volume has picked up over time. More paperwork flows through law departments, more cases are filed, more clients clamor for legal advice, more learning deserves to be absorbed – all of these are indicators of an increased flow of legal work (See my post of Oct. 24, 2007 on the number of deals completed by Freddie Mac’s law department.).

Third, what I call “legal intensity” has risen. Intensity refers to the pace of incoming legal problems recognized by or handed to in-house counsel. Faxes come in, participants at meetings want on-the-spot answers, instant messaging tells whether you are at your desk, Treo’s are always on, clients can drop in, the phone rings, and Fedex/UPS can deliver anywhere, anytime.

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