Surveys & Special Reports

2019 Chief Legal Officer Survey

For 20 years, Altman Weil’s Chief Legal Officer Survey has reported on the job of managing a corporate law department from the perspective of its chief lawyer. In that time, we have tracked the increasingly complex challenges of the role, the parameters of an effective, highly-functioning department, and the growing sophistication of lawyers and other professionals who make law departments work. The context of the 2019 survey, conducted in September and October 2019, includes a greater measure of economic uncertainty than in recent years, arising from the threat of recession, unpredictable trade policy and a more volatile geopolitical environment.

Chief Legal Officers (CLOs) spend the bulk of their time advising the CEO and Board on strategy, governance and other corporate responsibilities, but they also are responsible for the business unit that is the law department.  With only 16% of their time on average spent on department management, according to the 2019 survey, CLOs still have a mandate to run the department efficiently, control costs, manage risk, balance in-house and outside resources, and align legal services to support the strategic objectives of the organization.

Although CLOs of larger law departments traditionally have had lawyer-deputies to assist them in running the department, the increasing prevalence of Legal Operations Managers – a professional administrative position – is changing the trajectory of law department management.  As one Chief Legal Officer in this year’s survey commented “Hire a Legal Ops Lead and let them run the business of law – the payback will be significant.”

When studying law department management in 2019, it is important to look at the work of the CLO and the operations team.

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