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Gartner Says Competition for Technical Skills Set to Intensify for Legal and Compliance Functions

Legal Leaders Should Focus on Four Areas to Address the Technical Skills Gap

A growing technical skills gap is a top concern for legal and compliance leaders, according to a recent survey by Gartner, Inc. A September 2023 survey of 179 legal, compliance and privacy leaders, found that 65% of respondents noted a technical skills gap among their top 5 concerns in the next two years.

Gartner experts said that the rapid deployment of generative AI within the business and a host of new technical regulations, such as the digital markets act and ePrivacy regulation, require combinations of technical, and legal or compliance skills that are currently in very short supply.

“Typically seen as a barrier to innovation, legal and compliance functions will struggle to compete for this kind of talent, even within the company, against departments that offer better career advancement opportunities and can provide more enticing benefits and compensation packages,” said Stuart Strome, director, research in the Gartner Legal, Risk & Compliance Practice.

"Heads of legal departments should start developing their long-term talent management strategy, “Strome said. “Even lawyers right out of school won’t be equipped with certain in-demand skills, so leaders must create opportunities in their departments for lawyers to learn these skills - either on the job or through partnership with educational institutions."

Legal departments are facing two main issues regarding this technical skills gap. First, lawyers may be resistant to incorporating new technology into their workflows, especially if it requires major changes to how they operate. So as pressure grows for legal departments to increase productivity with new tools, legal ops leaders must make sure these tools work as promised and that lawyers have the right training to use them.

Second, both the EU AI Act and the Biden Administration's recent executive order on AI contain new requirements to minimize the risks of model bias and explainability.

“Legal leaders must be able to communicate these requirements to business partners and have a sufficient level of technical understanding to know whether their companies’ efforts will achieve compliance,” Strome said.

Gartner experts have outlined four main areas where scarce technical skills will impact legal and compliance teams.

Talent Management Strategy

There will be in-demand areas where legal and compliance simply will not be able to hire all the skills they need; legal leaders will need to make trade-offs and consider hires they typically would not (e.g. lower levels of experience.)

“In the long term, legal departments must ensure they are attractive to candidates with in-demand skills,” said Strome. “The competition for this talent is ramping up, and legal leaders will need to partner with HR to develop a talent recruitment strategy and an enticing employee value proposition,” said Strome.

Internal Skills Development

Some technical skills can be developed in-house through internal training programs, external courses or partnering with outside counsel. Instead of hiring for all skills, legal departments should upskill current staff to fill technical skills gaps where possible.

Internal Technical Partnerships

Other functions in the company — such as IT, information security and data and analytics — likely already have employees with the technical skills and expertise needed by legal departments.

“When Legal and Compliance is seen as a roadblock, other departments may be hesitant to share resources,” said Strome. “To get access to the technical abilities they will need, legal leaders must cast off this perception and seek mutually beneficial opportunities to share technical skills and capacity.”

Workload Allocation

With approximately half of legal work sent to external providers, legal departments should prioritize sending work to outside counsel that requires technical experience when it is too costly to develop in house. This is particularly true in cases in which regulations require highly technical knowledge to correctly interpret and devise a response.

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