State and Local Attorneys Brace for a Workload Increase

New York State Supreme Court

New York State Supreme Court


Connecting state and local government leaders

Laws keep evolving, budgets keep tightening and more experienced attorneys are ready to retire, making automation that much more important for governments.

Government attorneys work on an average of 32 matters a week, and 79 percent expect that number to increase in a few years, according to a new Thomson Reuters survey.

Federal, state and local government attorneys reported needing a broader skillset than their private-practice counterparts to draft legislation on emerging issues like data privacy and cybersecurity, adjudicate complaints and enforce compliance.

Tight budgets add to the pressure, said 67 percent of the 238 respondents, as does the “silver tsunami” of Baby Boomer-era attorneys retiring and taking institutional knowledge with them. By 2019, 50 percent of the state and local workforce will be retirement eligible.

“While attorneys in private practice can defer work outside of their practice area and corporate counsel can send work to firms, government lawyers generally can’t turn down work,” said Steve Rubley, Thomson Reuters government segment managing director, in a statement. “At the same time, they face challenges familiar to other parts of the legal industry—an increase in workload, institutional knowledge walking out the door and limited budgets requiring them to do more with less.”

Rubley suggests governments invest in “technological resources and workflow solutions” to boost attorney efficiency at a time when they report spending an average of six hours a week studying outside their expertise.

Drafting software automating redundant aspects of document management cuts down on a task attorneys report takes up 45 percent of their time. “Knowledge management” tools help less-experienced attorneys get ahead on researching new areas—lessening the likelihood they miss deadlines and inaccuracies in their work.

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Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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