Facts & Figures: Legal department budgets on the rise in 2012

From GC job satisfaction to Big Law profits, an inside look at the numbers that count

Compelling Concerns

Economic pressures, regulatory burdens, data security—it seems that the list of concerns continues to grow for chief legal officers (CLO). In a new survey from the Association of Corporate Counsel, CLOs shared the most pressing issues facing their companies, and reported being heavily involved in business strategy. Fortunately, many are getting increased budgets to handle these responsibilities: Two-thirds of respondents said that their in-house budget increased during the past year, while 59 percent saw their outside counsel budgets increase.

Slumping Sector

Class-Action Cash

Plaintiffs firms that handle securities class actions had a good year in 2012, as they raked in fees and court-related expenses of more than $650 million, according to a report from NERA Economic Consulting. The report also found that aggregate settlement amounts increased significantly between 2011 and 2012, although the median proportion of fees to settlements is on the decline.

Sinking Suits

The U.S. financial sector has been much maligned since the onset of the 2008 financial crisis. But perhaps some of that ire is dissipating—at least, if the falling number of federal securities fraud lawsuits seeking class-action status is any indication. That number hit its lowest point in six years in 2012, largely because of a decline in the number of mergers and acquisitions and Chinese reverse merger filings, according to a study by Stanford Law School and Cornerstone Research. That trend could reverse itself, however, if new federal whistleblower programs lead to more fraud tips.

Rising Revenues

Big Law defied expectations in 2012, managing to boost profits and revenues despite previously grim forecasts. In fact, gross firm revenues, net incomes and profits per equity partner at large U.S. law firms  last year were all at their highest levels since the recession. That increase may be the result of firms’ efforts to wrap up collections and last-minute business in advance of the fiscal cliff.

Sufficient Security?

Alanna Byrne

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