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In-house Access Insight & Commentary for In-House Counsel Worldwide

The 2011 ACC Census: It’s All About You

Posted in In-House Practice, Leadership

The in-house profession is constantly evolving and adding value. You sit alongside CEOs, vice presidents and the like –– and you are being listened to. You already know your value, even if you have to prove it to your companies every once in a while. You don’t necessarily need a census, or a survey for that matter, to tell you the great impact you have on the business. However, I thought you (and your companies) might want to know that the 2011 ACC Census, like the 2011 CLO Survey that came before it, echoed these sentiments.

ACC’s Census is the only comprehensive industry study that provides unique insight into your world as in-house counsel. To identify the trends affecting you, we surveyed almost 6,000 in-house lawyers (including CLOs and GCs) from the law departments of more than 4,000 companies.

The ACC Census is conducted every five years, and there have been great shifts in the economy (the financial crisis of 2008); the way we must practice law (increased government regulations); and the way our companies do business (growth of online media, social networks and privacy issues) between 2006 and 2011. These shifts have not only increased the responsibilities and role of in-house counsel, but they have also changed the relationship with outside counsel.

Evident in the findings of the ACC Census, in-house counsel are turning to outside counsel less frequently, opting to handle in-house much of the work traditionally farmed out to law firms (litigation, tax issues, etc.). Further, the in-house legal department budget has increased by more than 20 percent, indicating that companies are looking to their in-house counsel for efficiency in managing a larger share of financial resources. This all signals a continuing shift from large law firms to in-house law departments. It also suggests that by implementing value-based billing arrangements and other concepts advocated as part of ACC’s Value Challenge, in-house counsel will continue to offer the best and most economical results for their companies.

Your focus has also shifted to issues of privacy. As I mentioned above, with an increased online presence, in-house counsel have to deal with the implications of this growth, and 11 percent of those surveyed said that privacy was now their primary discipline. Another practice area showing a significant shift is government regulation, with 18 percent of those surveyed indicating it as their primary discipline. This represents a substantial shift when you consider that in 2006, only 2 percent reported government regulation as a primary focus.

With the role of in-house counsel continuing to evolve and change, so does the legal department. This fact was also evident in the ACC Census findings, which revealed a sizable change from 2006 in how legal departments are structured.

Today, nearly three in four departments are centrally organized, meaning all of the attorneys are housed in the corporate center rather than cited at the location of the business units. According to the ACC Census, 73 percent of corporate law departments are organized this way –– up from 55 percent in 2006. Again, this shift, like the others identified, makes sense with the increasingly complex role of in-house counsel.

The few nuggets of information that I pulled from the ACC Census reinforce what you already know: Despite the regulatory challenges, heightened level of accountability, shifts in what you must focus on in your role, and overall changes in the way your companies do business –– your work is valued, you like what you do, and you are resiliently committed to the in-house bar.

And ACC is equally committed to you and your professional success.

Click here for more information on the 2011 ACC Census and to order a copy for your organization.