Managing incidents is ineffective in an era of disruption

An era of persistent disruption is, and will continue taxing legal department resources

Corporate legal departments need to build a process for managing, and learning from, persistent disruption, according to Gartner, Inc. Persistent disruption has arisen from both macro shocks, such as the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine amid other geopolitical tensions, as well as rapid societal shifts in environmental, social and governance (ESG) expectations.

“An era of persistent disruption is – and will continue – taxing constrained legal department resources,” said Raashi Rastogi, director, research in the Gartner Legal Risk & Compliance Practice. “Legal leaders need to find efficiencies in the way their department handles disruption. They should not anticipate getting a lot more resources to cope, nor should they expect the volume of disruptions to significantly decrease soon.”

Legal departments typically treat disruption response as high-value urgent work, and therefore accept trade-offs to get it done. However, in the era of persistent disruption, continually making such trade-offs starts to add up and have a negative effect on the overall departmental workload and efficiency.

A July 2022 survey of 140 general counsel showed the extent to which having an efficient disruption-response process in place reduced the number of costly trade-offs legal departments had to make.

“Legal departments that have developed a high-efficiency approach for handling disruptive events are essentially making one trade-off for every three in a low-efficiency department,” said Rastogi. “With disruption now being the norm rather than the exception, very few legal departments can afford the volume of trade-offs that comes with an inefficient response to disruption.”
The most significant costs tend to come in three forms:

  • Missed Business Value Capture— A response to business disruption is prioritized over matters of long-term strategic importance.
  • Delayed Development of Legal Department Capabilities — Investments in lawyer and business partner training and technology implementation are neglected or delayed.
  • Lawyer Exhaustion and Disengagement— Facing more work with the same amount of resources, lawyers are burnt out and leaving, or actively seeking other opportunities.

Learn From Disruption
Departments that prioritize learning from disruption, rather than simply fighting one disruption after another, are far more efficient and provide higher-quality guidance than departments that do not. They’re more effective in helping the business avoid unnecessary risk — risk outside their risk tolerance — while still capturing as much value as possible.

Legal departments that excel in learning from disruption are 3.5 times more likely to be highly efficient in their disruption response and 2.3 times more likely to provide high-quality guidance. Greater efficiency ultimately leads legal to make fewer costly trade-offs in responding to disruption.

“What this means in practice is an ongoing process of learning what actions to take when disruption occurs, and then figuring out how to execute those actions more efficiently,” said Rastogi. “That may involve identifying in advance what the highest-impact disruptions are likely to be, determining how to respond to them, and building the department’s collective experience in executing these responses efficiently.”



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