4 March 2016

In-House Counsel Survey Roundup

Reading every survey out there aimed at general counsel can be a chore, so we read them for you. Below is a roundup of our 5 favorite surveys, plus the best of the rest.

We evaluated them using 6 criteria:

  • Breadth of topic coverage
  • Depth of coverage in survey questions
  • Number of respondents
  • Survey and summary presentation
  • Cost
  • Overall value to reader

Here are our findings, with direct quotes noted when applicable.

ACC Chief Legal Officer Survey

  • Current version: 2016, released in January
  • Cost: ACC member price is $245, non-member price is $350
  • Page count: 94
  • Respondents: 1,300 CLOs

Goals: “To gain further insight on the issues keeping them up at night, business priorities, career satisfaction and trends, organizational processes, desirable non-legal skills, outside counsel and vendor management, budgeting and staffing, and compensation.”

Key takeaways:           

  • regulatory activity affects 1 in 3
  • 1 in 5 CLOs experienced a data breach in the past 2 years
  • staff increases are expected in 2016
  • growth seen in legal operations

What makes it unique: With more than 50 questions and 1,300 respondents from 41 countries, the ACC CLO survey paints a comprehensive picture of CLO life, successes, and concerns today. Survey is user-friendly: the document opens with an introduction and executive summary, followed by an overview of the project and its methodology, 13 pages of key findings, and more than 70 pages listing every survey question and response.

Survey covers every possible topic, including staffing, matter sourcing, revenue, compensation, fee arrangements, non-legal skill priorities, and threats to success. Questions, responses, and data are accompanied by full-color charts and graphs.

Altman Weil Chief Legal Officer Flash Survey

  • Current version: 2015, released in November
  • Cost: Free online
  • Page count: 39
  • Respondents: 258 CLOs

Goals: To provide CLOs with insight “each year on issues of importance in managing their law departments”

Key takeaways:  “The 2015 Chief Legal Officer Survey finds law department leaders taking an increasingly strategic approach to directing legal service delivery internally and in deploying outside counsel to support their in-house team. Chief Legal Officers responding to the survey cite internal and external cost pressures as their greatest concern in managing their law departments in 2015.”

What makes it unique: Survey is quick-hitting and invaluable for its focus on life as a CLO in 2016. Its 17 topics fall into 7 umbrella categories: staffing, spending, matter sourcing, working with internal clients, managing the department, the CLOs responsibilities, and evolving market forces. Presentation is no frills: the report opens with a 6-page summary and analysis followed by the 30-page survey results, presented as questions and answers accompanied by bar graphs.

Blickstein Law Department Operations Survey

  • Current version: 2015, released in December
  • Cost: Free for participants. $500 for non-participants. Contact Brad Blickstein at brad@blicksteingroup.com or 847-256-5298. The summary is free online.
  • Page count: 16 (summary)
  • Respondents: 107 CLOs from 107 companies

Goals: To track “the challenges and wins of the industry.”

Key takeaways:

  • 81% of respondents track metrics measuring law firm expenses by matter type
  • Only 21% of respondents track metrics measuring a law firm’s days to resolution by matter type
  • 67% of respondents never use data mining and analytics to predict selection of venue
  • 52% of respondents never use data mining and analytics to predict discovery costs
  • 53% of respondents never use data mining and analytics to predict case outcome
  • The percentage of respondents using metrics to impact compensation rose from 23% in 2014 to 29% in 2015

What makes it unique: Now in its 8th year, Blickstein’s survey provides insight into the impact of technology and analytics on the modern CLO. Included are questions about creating a technology plan, formalized metrics programs, data mining, impact of metrics programs on compensation, e-discovery, alternative fee arrangements, responsibilities within the GC office, and cyber security protection. The 16-page PDF summary available free online is visually appealing and user friendly.

BTI Consulting Legal Spending Benchmarks

  • Current version: 2015, released in April
  • Cost: Summary is free online; participants receive full report
  • Page count: 29 (summary)
  • Respondents: 317 CLOs from 317 companies

Goals: To study the spending of in-house legal departments.

Key takeaways:

  • For the 3rd straight year, average total legal spending levels have risen for large organizations
  • However, budgets remain stretched and resources are put to a capacity test
  • After 3 years of steady increases, average internal legal spend per company broke $14 million for the first time since 2001

What makes it unique: BTI provides a comprehensive breakdown of law department legal spending, examining within 4 main categories:

  • total legal spend per company, both internal and outside counsel
  • legal spend as a percent of revenue, both by company size and by industry
  • legal budget breakdown by industry (14 industries provided)
  • spending on new legal needs, such as cybersecurity and data privacy or media and technology

The 29-page, color document is loaded with visual aids along with accompanying takeaways and insights.

PricewaterhouseCoopers 2015 Global Operations Survey

  • Current version: 2015, released in December
  • Cost: Summary is free online
  • Page count: 28-page summary
  • Respondents: 1,262 operations decision-makers

Goals: “To learn more about how companies are using operations to drive competitive advantage today.”

Key takeaways:

  •  “Knowing what customers value is a real and persistent challenge for operations executives.” Thirty-two percent of respondents cite understanding what customers value as the most challenging aspect of operations.
  • “Companies plan to do more than just improve existing processes.” Fifty-eight percent of respondents recognize that ‘nearly every aspect of operational excellence can be copied,” adding that “they balance day-to-day process improvement goals with longer-term efforts to transform what operations is and what it delivers.”
  • “Operations itself is being reimagined”

What makes it unique: The PwC survey stands out in two obvious ways. First is its focus on global operations; none of the other surveys we reviewed inspect this area of the profession which such depth. Second is its total number of respondents, one of only two surveys exceeding 700 respondents, let alone 1,200.

The best of the rest

ALM Law Department Metrics Benchmarking Survey

  • Current version: 2015, released in October
  • Cost: $1,199
  • Goals: To “examine law department operations and reports on critical measurements of structure and performance, including staffing, expenditures, outside counsel management, operations, and functions.”

Consero General Counsel Data Survey

  • Current version: 2015, released in July
  • Cost: Free online
  • Goals: To study GC budgeting and the evolving role of the position

Grant Thornton Corporate General Counsel Survey

  • Current version: 2015, released in May. 2016 version expected out by the end of April.
  • Cost: Summary is free online
  • Goals: “To get the views of corporate counsel on the key threats to business growth. The objectives of the 2015 survey were to uncover the latest issues organizations are facing as they respond to risks, assess the effectiveness of their risk mitigation activities, and gain a deeper understanding of what they are doing to address cybersecurity.”

HBR Consulting Law Department Survey

  • Current version: 2015, released in October
  • Cost: Cost of the electronic version depends on the number of lawyers, starting at $1,200.
  • Goals: To study spending and staffing habits of “larger… global U.S. law departments.”

Lexis Nexis CounselLink Survey

  • Current version: 2015, with responses gathered from September to October of 2014
  • Cost:  Summary is free online
  • Goals: “To capture a quick assessment of the hot topics prevalent across corporate legal departments today.”

TerraLex General Counsel Excellence Report

  • Current version: 2015, released in May
  • Cost: Summary is free online
  • Goals: To examine “the redefinition of the general counsel role and what law firms can do to support this transition.”