The role and reach of in-house counsel and their work-life balance were among the topics more than 200 lawyers shared in the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Australia and Wolters Kluwer 2023 Trends Survey Report.
The annual report, which is also supported by the ACC Australia Corporate Alliance Programme Partners, highlights the continuing significance of in-house counsel within their organisations, the current state of the profession and notable changes in the past year.
It challenges the belief that, while prior experience in private practice is valued, it is not felt to be necessary, particularly in in-house roles that are part of larger and well-supported legal teams, where mentoring and training are prioritised.
To satisfy those looking for comprehensive summaries and detailed survey results, the ACC Australia organised a pre-release webinar on 29 May, where the ACC Australia’s immediate past president, Justin Coss, along with Wolters Kluwer Asia Pacific’s associate director of content, Diana Winfield, and senior content specialist, Samantha Sachdev, announced the key findings.
“The survey covered a wide range of areas including the role and reach of in-house counsel, internal and external environments, legal technology and their work-life balance,” said Coss.
“Some of these were revisited trends, particularly around legal technology uptake, workflow and work-life balance, but there was also an exploration of factors influencing the choice of external legal providers, cybersecurity, ESG [environmental, social, and governance] compliance, and career paths for in-house lawyers.”
Some highlights of the comprehensive the 2023 Trends Survey Report include:
- 62% of chief legal officers confirmed they sit directly on the executive committee or leadership team;
- Across the board, specialised skills ranked high on the list of reasons for seeking third-party assistance;
- Data breaches have decreased, but data privacy and cybersecurity are still significant concerns on everyone’s radar. While only a quarter of those surveyed consider themselves fully prepared for future breaches, another half have stepped up efforts to manage risks by improving their approach to collecting, processing and storing personal data;
- Legal teams are preparing for challenges related to cyberattacks, data security breaches, and increased ESG reporting requirements;
- Matter and document management tools are a priority for investment, but digitalisation barriers exist, such as a lack of product knowledge and budget constraints;
- Investing in matter and document management tools continues to be a top priority;
- Embracing new technologies isn’t just a business imperative but also an employee expectation;
- Long hours and heavy workloads continue to characterise in-house counsel roles;
- To support better work-life balance, in-house legal teams are asking for a bigger budget share for staffing and technological resource improvements, more realistic work timeframes, and clarity around roles, responsibilities and flexible working, noting the need to add the responses to the organisations’ policies and procedures.
The ACC Australia will use the results of the Trends Survey to champion new initiatives, and to continue to influence and advocate on issues that affect the practice of law by in-house counsel.
The 2023 Trends Survey can be downloaded HERE.