Survey: General Counsels’ budgets change, delegation of legal work doesn’t

July 28, 2014

document reviewMany of the general counsels who responded to a newly released survey said their budgets and staff increased over the past year, but even so, most are still planning to keep even more work in-house.

This, of course, may have implications for Large Law firms, which cater heavily to corporate clients.

Consero Group’s General Counsel Data Survey was conducted in June 2014. Fifty-seven responses from general counsels of Fortune 1000 companies were returned. They found that:

  • 51 percent of the general counsels who responded reported that their departmental budget had increased in the past year. Twenty-eight percent said their budget had not changed, and 21 percent said it had decreased.
  • 44 percent of respondents said the number of staff members employed by their department had increased over the past 12 months.
  • 84 percent of surveyed general counsels said they do not plan to delegate any more work to outside counsel than they did a year ago.
  • 58 percent reported using alternative-fee arrangements for outside counsel work.

As far as why some general counsels are keeping more work in-house, a similar survey by Consero in January 2014 found general counsel who planned to keep more work in-house did so because they were not satisfied with the cost or value of outside legal help, not because they were dissatisfied with its quality. That trend is in keeping in Consero’s assessment of this most recent survey: Corporate legal departments are using any increase in budget to invest internally, and, as illustrated by the rise in alternative fee arrangements and reduction on outside legal help, remain cautious about how they spend their money.

All of this underscores the need for law firms to commit to the fact that the landscape has changed and adjustments, if not wholesale shifts, must be made.  Those firms that accept and embrace change have taken the first step in the difficult journey of morphing into a lean, contemporary legal operation.  Law firms that use business development and client intelligence tools to acclimatize themselves to this change can take a more holistic approach to client needs and revitalize the services they provide to clients. In short, change itself – like general counsels keeping more work in-house – is less of a problem than is not adapting to such change.