Three-quarters of chief legal officers (CLOs) and general counsel (GCs) say their legal departments “almost always” meet with business leaders to discuss risk, while two-thirds say the executive leadership values their department’s input on decisions and that they contribute to the organisation’s strategic planning efforts, a new report released today by the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC Australia) found. The ACC Law Department Management 2016 Report includes the perspectives of 300 CLOs, GCs, and legal operations professionals from 37 industries across 25 countries on the current state of corporate legal departments during a time of disruption in the industry, including increased sourcing to non-legal providers.

According to the report, legal departments most highly valued for their strategic advice are those that maintain consistent budgets, apply innovation to their work, and utilise management practices to drive efficiency. Accomplishments in these areas yield greater organisational influence, the survey found, and contributing to company-wide initiatives increases the overall value the law department provides.

“Demonstrating and growing the value of the law department enterprise-wide has become a key focus for the CLO,” said Gillian Wong, ACC Australia President. “The effort was accelerated by the disruption of the legal industry during the financial crisis, but the trend is here to stay, as the company benefits from the department’s role as a strategic partner in business decisions.”

The survey examined legal department budgets and their impact on enterprise influence, finding that 54 percent of respondents said their departments came within 5 percent of an established budget. The data showed that spending within the budget was easier for smaller legal departments, as they generally face less litigation and smaller regulatory workloads.

In addition to data from the 300 CLO, GC, and legal operations respondents, the report captures anecdotal experience and examples from GCs based in Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, and North America.