One of the things we commonly hear from clients and the market is that they are being asked to do more with less. Things rings true both domestically and for globally headquartered companies. The 2013 EMEA Legal Department Benchmarking Survey from ACC provides a glimpse of what those global legal departments are saying, with 58% of respondents being headquartered in Europe. They find some similarities to the trends we see commonly here in the States, with expectations that external spend to decrease while internal spending stays the same or increases (30% of respondents). This combined with the fact that 40% also expect staff sizes to increase (only 10% foresee a decrease) suggests that foreign organizations too are looking to keep legal work in-house, just as we’ve identified for domestic organizations on the Mitratech blog in the past.
There is definitely a preponderance of focus from the global organizations on regulatory compliance work being done by the internal team for these global corporations. While we typically hear US-based general counsel talking about their role in mitigating risk, this may be even more of a focus for internationally located companies’ law departments. 67% of these organizations have a dedicated compliance/regulatory function within the business and at 63% of these organizations, the head of that team reports to the general counsel, indicating the overall importance of the compliance program but also illustrating how general counsel are playing a strategic role and taking on more responsibility within their departments. The survey suggests that more and more, the focus is not only on bringing more work in-house, but specifically financial and regulatory compliance with over half of the companies indicating that they now manage these issues internally. Some areas of practice are down, but these departments continue to handle a variety of matters internally, suggesting the need for a holistic strategy.
It is important to keep in mind that these are still one department, one legal team, so general counsel and chief legal officers must focus on business process and tools that allow globally diverse teams working on a variety of matter types to do their jobs in the most productive manner. Whether that be regulatory and compliance work, transactional work, labor issues, or managing litigation, with the right mix of strategic vision, planning and change management, the challenges that keep general counsel up and night can be overcome for both domestic and global organizations.