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The Association of Corporate Counsel has released its 2015 survey of Chief Legal Officers. ACC asked almost 9,500 CLOs or GCs a whole lot of questions, receiving responses from 1,289 of them in 46 countries, to determine what GCs are thinking about these days.
Among the things in-house lawyers seem to be most worried about: ethics, compliance, and data protection. Let's look at five highlights.
1. Ethics and Compliance.
This was a huge area of concern, with 96 percent of respondents saying that ethics was "important" in 2015 and 25 percent saying it was "very important." This is probably due to government agencies ramping up oversight and fines more than they ever have. The moral of the story: Regulators are paying attention.
2. Budgets Are Steady.
The survey notes that 65 percent of the surveyed GCs didn't make very much of a change to their budgets over the last 12 months, indicating that costs are under control. We know that the trend toward moving more work in-house is continuing, but GCs are also shaving fees by negotiating alternative arrangements like flat fees and associating with boutique firms rather than BigLaw firms. Because why do you have to pay to support the firm's other practice areas?
3. Soft Skills.
Remember when we talked about "emotional intelligence"? Turns out GCs really do care about "soft skills" like empathy, communication, and interpersonal relationships. As we noted before, these skills are essential for a functioning legal department. Sure, legal research skills are great, but if you can't stand the person you're working with, are you really going to be happy coming to work every day?
4. Protecting Corporate Data.
Data breaches are all over the news these days, which has general counsel worried, and rightly so. About 25 percent of GCs reported experiencing data breaches in the last two years. Which industry was most likely to experience a data breach? Not surprisingly, it was the health care industry. Between its fairly lax security and treasure trove of personal information, it's the most tempting target.
Finally, GCs are concerned with diversity, which the survey says contributes to "positive business outcomes." As more women are employed, basically all the economic indicators get better. The survey is unfortunately mum on the issue of how diverse the GC world is, but does point out that there are 12 percent more female GCs in Generation X than in the Baby Boomer generation. (Then again, that could mean that, out of 100 GCs, we went from 1 woman to 12, so it's hard to know how much progress we've made.)