ACC survey pinpoints data privacy as top in-house concern

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A key worldwide Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) survey of chief legal officers has found data and privacy issues are weighing the most on their minds. The 2021 Chief Legal Officer (CLO) survey sought to measure the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on these key business partners, and drew responses from 947 CLOs across 21 industries and 44 countries.

The CLOs reported that compliance and data privacy functions were the most important issues for them in 2021. A significant 80% of the respondents surveyed expressed concern over changing data privacy laws in the jurisdictions where they do business, and 90% expect these data privacy concerns to accelerate.

“This report demonstrates that we are truly in the age of the CLO, and within the incredibly dynamic, Asia-Pacific business environment, the 2021 ACC Asia-Pacific CLO report provides an important blueprint and reasoning for the CLO assuming increased influence across the organisation,” said Tanya Khan, the vice president and managing director of ACC Australia and Asia-Pacific.

Despite the pandemic, many CLOs expect their legal operations to grow, with 61% of legal departments in the survey having at least one legal operation professional on staff, a 6.7% increase over the previous year, and the highest percentage observed since ACC began tracking this metric in 2015. Over one-fifth of departments in the survey now employ at least four legal operation professionals.

Four out of five CLOs in the survey report directly to their CEO, and not surprisingly the report reveals these CLOs exert more influence than those who do not report to their CEO. They also only spend 28% of time on strictly legal work, and regularly participate in board meetings to provide input on governance issues, strategy development, as well as advising other executives on non-legal issues.

On a positive note, 32% of law departments in the survey plan to take on more lawyers in 2021, a slight increase of 2% on the 2020 survey. Among those departments that expect to hire more, almost half anticipate sending more work to law firms and other legal service providers. One-fifth of departments plan on adding paralegals, and 12.7% expect to hire additional legal ops professionals.

The ACC survey was conducted in partnership with the software company, Exterro.