947 CLOs Surveyed: Results Showcase New Trends In-House Professionals Must Know (Adv.)

ACC CLO Survey 2021

For a couple of decades now, the Association of Corporate Counsel has published the 2021 Chief Legal Officers Survey—a compilation of findings related to the role of the CLO and General Counsel, and their value to an organization. This year’s survey gathered responses from nearly 1,000 GCs and CLOs spanning 21 industries and 44 countries, which makes it one of the largest and most comprehensive surveys of its kind.

For this year’s survey, Exterro—the ACC’s exclusive Alliance Partner for E-Discovery, Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Compliance—worked in tandem with the ACC to help uncover major data points that GCs and CLOs will find interesting when looking at how to handle future legal and regulatory hurdles.

Let’s take a brief look at some of the major takeaways, and how those changes might affect in-house legal professionals and their organizations moving forward.

  • Nearly four-in-five GCs/CLOs report directly to the CEO. Perhaps the most noticeable trend over the past few years has been the increasing number of Legal department heads that report to their CEO—partially signifying their growing importance in business decisions. Most of the rest report to the CFO, with others reporting to a mix of C-suite positions. The trend has solidified in recent years, which, along with the next major takeaway, help create the need for a new strategy across enterprises.
  • Privacy now reports to the CLO in about half of organizations. Out of 19 corporate functions listed, Privacy (46%) and Compliance (74%) are the top two departments listed that report to the CLO, followed by Ethics, Risk, and Government Affairs. With more functions that have somewhat overlapping priorities and challenges now reporting to the CLO—and the CLO reporting to the CEO more than ever—many organizations are better understanding the need to incorporate a Legal Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) strategy to handle the ballooning multitudes of data-related challenges that businesses face.
  • Legal Operations positions are showing clear and consistent growth. With 61% of Legal departments now employing at least one legal operations professional—nearly a 40% increase in affirmative answers since 2015—it’s becoming clear that the value of their position is growing in the eyes of GCs and CLOs. In fact, more than one-in-five Legal departments employ at least four legal ops professionals. But that’s not the only position that’s growing….
  • Onethird of Legal departments say they’ll hire more lawyers this year. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on the budgets of many businesses, hires are on pace to outweigh layoffs for every legal position listed—and especially lawyers. Slightly more than 20% say they’ll increase their paralegal count, and 14.4% say they’ll be hiring more privacy professionals (the position least-likely to face decreases in headcount).

All of this highlights the need for organizations to place data at the forefront of their legal, risk, and compliance objectives with a comprehensive data management strategy. About six-in-10 organizations say they now have such a strategy in place, but with data privacy regulations and other, related legislation on the horizon, gaps still remain. CLOs from companies that earn under $100 million (which make up the majority of businesses) say they have a comprehensive data management strategy at a lower rate than larger businesses, but may be just as susceptible to major global data privacy regulations. To create this comprehensive data management strategy more and more legal departments are focusing on a Legal GRC approach.

Download the entire 2021 ACC Chief Legal Officers Survey to see the full survey results.

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