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New Study Uncovers Fractured Dynamic Between Legal Departments and Their Enterprises Undermines More Than Business Growth and Efficiency — It Undercuts Legal’s Charter

78% of enterprise employees view the legal department as protectors of the business, yet 65% knowingly bypass legal and their policies due to inefficiency and poor responsiveness 

Onit, the leading provider of enterprise workflow solutions including enterprise legal management and contract lifecycle management, released its Enterprise Legal Reputation (ELR) Report, a multinational study spotlighting the image enterprise employees have of their legal departments and the material effects their relationship has on their businesses — from revenue generation and operational efficiency to innovation and  corporate culture.

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In January, Onit commissioned Provoke Insights, a New York City-based market research firm, to conduct a study of 4,000 enterprise employees and 500 corporate legal professionals across the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany. The study helps corporate legal teams understand their brand image through the eyes of their internal clients so they can improve working relationships, accelerate legal workflows and more effectively impact topline revenue and operational efficiency.

The ELR Report’s findings shed light on the urgency for improving today’s corporate legal environment, revealing a somewhat fractured dynamic between legal and its internal clients — particularly in public-facing, revenue-impacting functions like sales, marketing and procurement.

While the majority (78%) of enterprise employees view the legal department as protectors of the business, two in three (65%) admittedly avoid engaging Legal, bypassing its policies because of perceived bureaucracy, inefficiency, poor responsiveness and a belief that Legal doesn’t understand their specific business needs. However, those same enterprise employees acknowledge the legal department’s critical role in driving growth for the company — three of four (77%) believe Legal is great at negotiating on behalf of their companies and nearly half (48%) say Legal accelerates their sales cycles.

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The ELR Report also revealed that only 19% of enterprise employees believe Legal considers client service a priority while eight in ten (79%) do not see Legal as a modern operation. These findings spotlight an enormous opportunity for legal departments to foster internal relationships by improving their responsiveness and operational efficiency, with respondents noting that the reassessment of policies and technology — specifically workflow automation and artificial intelligence (AI) — is needed for legal processes to be more efficient.

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“The ELR Report reveals a glaring reality check on the full spectrum of how Legal is perceived by their enterprise organizations,” Onit CEO Eric Elfman said. “The findings beg obvious questions — how aware are corporate legal departments of their brand image, what is the material effect and how strong is their impetus to change? While the ELR Report sheds light on these concerns, it ultimately pinpoints opportunities for Legal to evolve their working relationships, accelerate critical workflows and become more active partners in business growth and efficiency. There is a desire right now for Legal to evolve in impactful ways — their businesses are counting on them.”

Other key findings further magnify the differing views of Legal across the enterprise:

  • The Legal team’s relationship varies by department — 62% of employees from HR and Finance report positive relations versus only 43% from Sales and 37% from both Marketing and Procurement.
  • In companies where teams are remote, two in five (38%) say Legal was more responsive prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • 60% believe Legal positively impacts their companies’ brands, but one in five (22%) say Legal is the “No Police.”

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