More than two thirds of general counsel (GC) now sit on their organisation's board, with more than half reporting to the CEO, the Law Society of England and Wales' 2015 GC350 study reveals.
The study, sponsored by Lexis Nexis, shows the tremendous pressures in-house legal departments are under, which are resulting in changes to the way in-house legal teams work. In addition to increased volumes, the work of in-house legal teams is becoming ever more complex, as general counsel navigate changing market conditions which present business opportunities as well as challenges.
Law Society chief executive Catherine Dixon commented on the findings:
'This is the first part of our General Counsel 350 benchmarking study. It identifies that in-house legal teams are growing their influence and credibility. Organisations are recognising the importance of the role that general counsel plays. Two thirds of GC now have a seat on the board.
'Demands on in-house legal functions are increasing due to the need to address higher volumes of work with reduced resources and increasingly complex legal and business regulation. In this climate, innovative approaches are being adopted by GC and in-house teams to measure and report the value they bring to their organisation in terms of commercial advantage and mitigation of risks.
Fifty per cent of GCs set legal budgets, and two thirds determine how legal budgets are spent. On average, 58 per cent of a GC's budget is spent obtaining external legal advice, with almost half of specialist advice, and a quarter of high-level strategic work outsourced. The need to reduce costs is driving GCs to grow their in-house capacity.
Catherine Dixon concluded:
'A GC is not just a legal adviser, she or he is also a business adviser who drives innovation and shapes organisational risk culture. The Law Society recognises in-house as an increasingly important group within our membership and we have developed a tailored programme of support for those who are, or aspire to be general counsel.'