WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--As demands rise for companies to increase profits and productivity, general counsel are shifting priorities in the year ahead to address challenging global business and legal issues, according to the Chief Legal Officer (CLO) 2014 Survey from the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), a global bar association representing more than 33,000 in-house counsel in 85 countries.
The survey, which includes responses from more than 1,200 individuals in 41 countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Israel, revealed that ethics and compliance (88%), regulatory or government changes (83%) and information privacy (79%) will lead as the most pressing issues keeping CLOs up at night in the year ahead. Protection of intellectual property (74%), data breaches and protection (72%), technology developments (62%), social media management/governance (59%) and mergers and acquisitions (59%) followed close behind.
“We find that ethics and compliance issues are not only weighing heavily on the minds of chief legal officers, but also boards of directors and senior management around the world,” said Veta T. Richardson, ACC president and CEO. “Businesses globally are recognizing how vital it is to ensure their top priority is abiding by ever more complex regulations.”
Additionally, survey respondents indicated that staying aware of company business activities with potential legal implications, staying up-to-date on changes in law and keeping management apprised of legal developments are top priorities.
Strategic staffing and managing expenses in a global economy will also be a main priority for CLOs worldwide in 2014. Consistent with last year’s survey results, 53 percent of CLOs altered their law departments’ total budgets and 38 percent plan to make changes to their law department spending habits in the year ahead. CLOs also expect to increase their inside budgets by an average 3.1 percent and outside budgets by an average 1.3 percent, resulting in overall total budget increases of 2.3 percent. This is slightly higher than last year’s overall average total budget increases of 1.9 percent.
“There is both a legal and business dimension to the equation,” said Richardson. “In order to remain effective, general counsel are triaging legal expenditures and applying more strategic approaches, leading to better overall law department management.”
Although hiring patterns are expected to remain the same as in 2013, new positions are more likely to be created in compliance, intellectual property, contracts and risk management. According to the ACC survey, more than 30 percent of CLOs are creating new positions within their law departments to focus on compliance-related work. Further, ACC found that this year’s respondents showed higher staff retention levels, including a substantial decrease in cuts to contract lawyers and support staff.
According to the 2014 survey findings, global corporate law departments are changing the way they buy legal services and moving high-value strategic work in-house to help streamline processes, improve efficiency and make the most of legal division staff. Roughly 89 percent of respondents are looking to further develop non-legal skills among their staff, according to the survey. The most highly sought non-legal skills include business management (62%), project management (54%) and communication skills (49%).
Other significant survey findings include:
- The majority of CLOs (58%) indicated the cost of their law department continues to be part of the organization’s general overhead (for cost accounting purposes).
- Over one-third of compliance functions report to the CLO, while 30 percent report the CEO and 29 percent report to the board of directors. Only 17 percent report to the chief compliance officer.
- Three-quarters (76%) of CLOs spent the majority of their time advising executives and participating in strategic corporate issues over the past year.
- Although the overall average base salary among CLOs was found to be $246,841, compared to $251,431 last year, the dip has not triggered lower satisfaction levels. Eighty-five percent of CLO respondents reported being satisfied with their current role and responsibility within their companies, compared to just 81 percent last year.
For more information on the ACC CLO Survey or to purchase a copy of the full survey or customized benchmarking report, please visit http://www.acc.com/closurvey.
About ACC: The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is a global bar association that promotes the common professional and business interests of in-house counsel who work for corporations, associations and other private-sector organizations through information, education, networking opportunities and advocacy initiatives. With more than 33,000 members in 85 countries, employed by over 10,000 organizations, ACC connects its members to the people and resources necessary for both personal and professional growth. By in-house counsel, for in-house counsel.® For more information, visit www.acc.com and follow ACC on Twitter: @ACCinhouse.