Survey Provides Fresh Evidence that General Counsel are Expanding Beyond their Traditional Role to Embrace New Leadership Responsibilities

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New study from TerraLex and Holland & Hart shows regulatory concerns are now joined by a focus on cybersecurity, data privacy, and other corporate priorities

“We believe the survey will provide real insight to general counsel, and equally to the law firms with which they work,” said John Husband, Holland & Hart Partner and TerraLex Executive Committee Member.

The role of the corporate general counsel continues to evolve to include new, important areas of focus and responsibilities. While maintaining a handle on the traditional functions of the legal department, a just-released survey of general counsel at 127 corporations reveals that their role is increasingly concerned with regulation and compliance, as well as data privacy and related cybersecurity issues.

The new findings are contained in “The General Counsel Excellence Report 2015,” a survey sponsored by TerraLex, a referral network of more than 150 law firms, including Holland & Hart, which is the TerraLex member of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, and Wyoming. The complete survey, which was undertaken by The Global Legal Post, can be accessed here. A similar survey was undertaken in 2013.

“The survey shows that the responsibilities of the general counsel are expanding to include director, risk manager and advisor, regulatory compliance responsibilities, and the leadership of legal departments,” said Harry Trueheart, Chairman and CEO of TerraLex, and Chairman Emeritus of Nixon Peabody LLP. “With that leadership comes accountability for costs and outcomes that contribute to the success of their organizations.”

The survey indicates that regulation and compliance remain the foremost concerns of general counsel, but that cybersecurity/data privacy has jumped into the list of top three concerns (increasing by more than 39% from 2013). Rounding out the general counsel’s top three areas of concern is creating value for the company, with four in five legal chiefs under pressure to do more with less.

In an effort to address the costs of their legal departments, a majority of the general counsel surveyed (60%) are now regularly asking their outside law firms for alternatives to the hourly billing model; this represents a 28% increase over the 47% doing so in 2013. In addition, almost 3 in 4 general counsel say they are looking for service providers to deliver more effective and cost-efficient services; however 73% of respondents said they were not using legal services outsourcing, while 80% said they were not using legal process outsourcing.

“We believe the survey will provide real insight to general counsel, and equally to the law firms with which they work,” said John Husband, Holland & Hart Partner and TerraLex Executive Committee Member. “As the general counsel role changes, so should the types of services provided by their outside law firms. Our hope is that this new report will allow for a meaningful dialogue between general counsel and the firms who provide legal services about how to derive maximum value from their relationship.”

Finding the right law firm is also a subject of the survey. Not surprisingly, the most trusted source for researching a law firm was a direct referral, with the use of a law firm network coming in second. Respondents also noted that when looking for a foreign firm, 58% of them use law firm networks.

In addition to providing survey results on the responsibilities of the general counsel, the selling of legal services, and the relationship between firms and outsourcing, the report also includes insightful interviews with Bruce MacMillian of Visa, Rosemary Martin of Vodafone, Pavel Klimov of Unisys, and Judith Shepherd of Barclays, discussing the evolving role of the general counsel.

About TerraLex
TerraLex is one of the world’s leading international legal networks. With more than 155 top independent law firms and more than 17,000 attorneys in 100 countries, TerraLex members provide the legal resources and expertise needed to conduct seamless business worldwide.

About Holland & Hart
Holland & Hart LLP delivers integrated legal solutions to regional, national, and international clients of all sizes. Since its inception in 1947, Holland & Hart’s approximately 500 lawyers have consistently been recognized by leading national and international peer and industry review organizations for innovation and dedication to the practice of law. For more information, visit http://www.hollandhart.com.

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Paul Ward
Holland & Hart LLP
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