Ethics and Compliance Leads Among Pressing Issues For Chief Legal Officers, According To ACC CLO Survey

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 15:55


The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), a global bar association representing more than 30,000 in-house counsel, recently released the largest global survey of the most pressing issues and challenges facing chief legal officers in corporate legal departments around the world.

The ACC Chief Legal Officers (CLO) 2013 Survey received insight from more than 1,100 heads of corporate legal departments from 36 countries on the issues keeping them up at night, business priorities, career satisfaction and trends. Issues covered in the survey also included law department budget and staff changes, challenges involving pro bono initiatives and how CLOs evaluate the success and effectiveness of their law department.

Survey respondents were asked to evaluate the importance of issues in law over the past 12 months and anticipate what will continue to be relevant in the upcoming year. Chief among the top issues facing CLOs today is ethics and compliance, followed closely by regulatory or governmental changes and information privacy.

Over the past 12 months, the majority (78 percent) of respondents spent most of their time advising C-Suite executives and participating in strategic corporate issues.

“Fulfilling the dual role of business executive and legal advisor is the new normal for chief legal officers today,” said ACC president and CEO, Veta T. Richardson. “From reducing outside legal costs to keeping apprised of legal developments that may impact business decisions in an increasingly aggressive regulatory environment, the ACC CLO Survey shows that in-house counsel are squarely positioned in the hot seat.”

To measure the effectiveness and efficiency of law departments, another trend uncovered in the survey was the focus on outside legal spending by both private and public law departments.

“In-house and outside counsel are redefining value in the management of legal costs, and we’re seeing clear trends pointing to its continued prevalence and growth,” added Ms. Richardson. “Therefore, it’s not surprising that reducing legal costs is one of the top five business priorities keeping CLOs up at night.”

Findings also revealed other trends, including the increase in hiring and the use of contract lawyers, which received a 59 percent increase over last year. However, the level of job satisfaction decreased from 92 percent in 2011 to 81 percent in 2012.

Other significant findings from the survey:

  • Pro bono programs are not prevalent among the law departments of survey respondents, primarily due to the fact that respondents’ departments were too small and the legal staff was stretched too thin. CLOs also cited issues with the right to practice as one of the reasons corporate law departments do not participate in pro bono programs.
  •  Only 11 percent of CLOs surveyed made staff cuts over the past year unrelated to performance; 32 percent of staff cuts were in-house lawyers.
  • 55 percent of the CLOs surveyed reported law department budget changes over the past 12 months and in the year ahead.
  • 30 percent of the CLOs surveyed plan to increase their law department budgets.

About the ACC CLO Survey: The ACC Chief Legal Officer Survey is the largest survey of the heads of corporate legal departments from around the world. Released annually, it provides useful data for corporate legal departments, law firms, and industry partners such as recruiters and litigation support providers. Issues covered in the survey include law department demographics and staffing, the changing role of the CLO, managing outside counsel and costs and emerging trends. For more information on the ACC CLO Survey or to purchase a copy of the full survey or customized benchmarking report, visit

About ACC: The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is a global bar association that promotes the professional and business interests of in-house counsel through informationeducationnetworking opportunities and advocacy initiatives. The association, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, has more than 30,000 members employed by over 10,000 organizations in more than 75 countries. ACC connects its members to the people and resources necessary for personal and professional growth. For more information, visit and follow ACC on Twitter