2015 ACC Global Census Report Reveals Privacy, Cybersecurity, Corruption Top Challenges for In-House Lawyers

Complying with privacy, cybersecurity and corruption laws top the list of challenges for in-house lawyers both within and outside their jurisdictions, according to the 2015 ACC Global Census Report, published on October 12 by the Association of Corporate Counsel, a global legal association representing more than 40,000 in-house counsel in 85 countries.

The 2015 ACC Global Census, which includes responses from more than 5,000 in-house lawyers in 73 countries, also revealed that 40 percent of in-house lawyers work in a company that experienced a merger or acquisition in the past year, and outside counsel consultation for M&A activity grew significantly compared to the last Census in 2011. Despite the growth in outside counsel hiring for M&A work, litigation, employment and labor and intellectual property were the top three areas for which inside counsel consulted outside lawyers.

The corporate counsel arena saw an increase in women since the 2011 Census, when 41 percent who took the survey were women. In 2015, women represented 49.5 percent of Census respondents, likely signifying that women were closing the gender gap in-house. However, 69 percent of women report earning less than the weighted Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) $200,000, while only 56 percent of men reported earnings below that level. The Census also tracked salaries by industry, with defense and pharmaceutical industry in-house counsel earning the highest base salaries and in-house counsel from the research and development, trade association and educational services sectors making the least.

“We found this year that women were more likely to occupy the lower salary categories compared to men, who were more likely to occupy the higher salary categories – regardless of the number of years they had been in a particular position” said Veta T. Richardson, ACC president and CEO. “The gender salary divide was particularly stark given the nearly 50-50 breakdown of men and women respondents that we feel mirrors the overall demographics of the profession.”

In-house counsel today report high job satisfaction (80 percent), but appear to fall in line with concepts of a mobile, busy workforce dealing with competing demands. Nearly two-thirds would consider leaving their position for a career advancement opportunity and 30 percent would consider a lateral move. On average, in-house counsel reported working 49 hours a week, in excess of the typical U.S. and European workweeks of 40 and 35 hours, respectively. Additional hours may be a reaction to increased workloads, as 49 percent of in-house attorneys reported that their workloads had grown over the past year, while 42 percent said they had stayed the same and 9 percent said their workloads had decreased.

“The 2015 ACC Global Census Report shows that in-house counsel today must balance a desire to innovate with meeting client needs in tough business environments,” Richardson said. “The growing strategic aspects of the profession can compete with the daily demands of an in-house job, especially as workloads, geographic reach and management responsibilities continue to increase.”

Other significant Census findings include:

  • In-house lawyers in Spain, Israel, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada and the United States reported higher than average job satisfaction.
  • Almost two-thirds (62 percent) of in-house counsel have cross-border or multinational work responsibilities, a figure that rises to 86 and 82 percent, respectively, for corporate counsel in Europe and Asia Pacific.
  • Nearly half (45 percent) of in-house lawyers in Europe rated privacy as a top challenge, compared to just 29 percent in the United States.
  • Fewer respondents stated they sought outside counsel input for bankruptcy/creditor issues or regulatory issues in 2015 than in 2011 – when these were the top two practice areas selected.
  • Seventeen percent of Census respondents reported identifying as a minority.
  • In the United States, the percentage of in-house lawyers who identify as Asian/Pacific Islander rose from 5 to 7 percent between 2011 and 2015 and from 3 to 5 percent for Hispanic respondents. The percentage of respondents identifying as African American/black held steady at 4 percent.

For more information on the 2015 ACC Global Census Report, including details on how to purchase a copy or order a customized benchmarking report, please visit http://www.acc.com/acc2015census.