CLOs say compliance, data privacy among top priorities: ACC survey


The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) has published its 2023 Chief Legal Officers Survey (CLO Survey) offering key insights into future legal department operations and priorities.

Analysing data from 892 CLOs across 20 industries and 35 countries, this year’s survey found that 67% of CLOs expected the volume of privacy-related regulatory enforcement to increase in 2023, up 7% from last year.

The CLOs in the survey noted that cybersecurity, regulatory compliance and data privacy continue to be the most important issues to their businesses, with industry-specific regulations posing the greatest legal challenge.

“The ‘age of the CLO’ shows no signs of letting up, in fact, results of ACC’s industry-leading 2023 Chief Legal Officer’s Survey show that the CLO’s role and responsibilities within their organisations continue to expand and diversify,” said Veta T Richardson, ACC president and CEO in Washington, reflecting on the findings.

In addition, only 38% of respondents planned to hire more lawyers in 2023, compared with 45% in 2022. The annual survey, which was co-organised with legaltech company Exterro, found that fewer CLOs reported planning to send more work to law firms and alternative legal service providers this year than last year.

“The value of applying their unique training and experience to roles outside the traditional legal function is increasingly being recognised as beneficial to the strategic and operational needs of their organisations,” Richardson added.

“It does remain to be seen if this slowdown in hiring is a signal that legal departments are nearing their target operational sizes or an indication of a larger pullback in spending due to economic concerns.”

Legal operations were listed as the top strategic initiative in legal departments from 70% of CLOs, followed by right-sourcing legal services (45%) and cost minimisation (43%).

Bobby Balachandran, president and CEO of Exterro in Beaverton, Oregon, noted that “the 2023 survey demonstrates that CLOs’ priorities are shifting to accommodate the convergence of legal operations, privacy, regulatory compliance and cybersecurity response – and that they are responding to that growing scope of responsibilities with new strategies and technologies.”

Additional key survey findings include:

  • 77% of CLOs report directly to the CEO, indicating their vital role as integral business partners. This percentage has remained stable for five years and has increased from 64% in 2018.
  • 20% of CLOs reported overseeing at least one of the following issues: compliance; privacy; ethics; risk; government affairs; environmental, social and governance; and cybersecurity response. Compared with last year, there is a 4% increase in the number of CLOs that now oversee the above-mentioned matters this year.
  • Data management saw a 5% increase from last year in those who selected it as a top strategic priority for the legal department.
  • 68% of CLOs in the US see regulations as the biggest challenge compared with 52% in Europe. More than 40% of CLOs in Asia and Europe expect political changes to be the top challenge, compared with just 32% in the US.
  • 41% of CLOs said they plan to invest in new legaltech in 2023. Contract management remains the top technology for investment, as reported by 67% of CLOs.