As today’s general counsel are charged with increasing profits and productivity within their organizations, the most pressing issues keeping chief legal officers up at night are ethics and compliance, regulatory changes and information privacy.
According to the Chief Legal Officers (CLO) 2014 Survey from the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), ethics and compliance (88 percent), regulatory or government changes (83 percent) and information privacy (79 percent) are top of mind issues for CLOs around the world. In addition, protection of intellectual property (74 percent), data breaches and protection (72 percent), technology developments (62 percent), social media management/governance (59 percent) and mergers and acquisitions (59 percent) followed close behind.
These issues not only weigh heavily on the minds of CLOs, but also boards of directors and senior management, according to Veta Richardson, president and CEO of the ACC.
“Businesses globally are recognizing how vital it is to ensure their top priority is abiding by ever more complex regulations,” Richardson said in a statement.
In addition, 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.
“It is not uncommon to find the CLO directly involved in decision-making regarding evaluating new business opportunities, budgeting, hiring practices, technology, process management and change management,” according to the report’s executive summary.
As such, strategic staffing and managing expenses in a global economy will also be a main priority for CLOs worldwide this year. In fact, 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, which is consistent with last year’s survey results.
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 — a small increase over last year’s average total budget increases of 1.9 percent.
“There is both a legal and business dimension to the equation,” added 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 on par as with last year’s trends, 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.
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