New Study Reveals Today’s General Counsel Is Business Executive First

TerraLex-Sponsored Survey Pulls Back Curtain on Role of Modern GC

MIAMI--()--The great divide between legal departments and business operations at the world’s largest companies is shrinking. A just-released survey of general counsel at 270 corporations reveals this and other insights through questioning on topics such as general counsels’ top concerns and how they find and manage the law firms that work for them.

“This data will be very valuable to business leaders, in-house counsel, and particularly the law firms that serve their needs on a daily basis”

Long perceived as standing apart from their employers’ businesses, today’s general counsel are more likely to characterize their job function as being “a stakeholder in business decisions” (50% of respondents) than as “managing the legal department” (less than a third of respondents), according to the first-ever “General Counsel Excellence Report,” sponsored by TerraLex. Among the greatest concerns identified by survey participants, the bottom-line-focused “desire to create value for the company” (34%) was outranked only by worries over regulation and compliance (57%). By contrast, the emerging areas of data security and cyber-related issues were identified as a concern by only 20%.

The report suggests that the role of general counsel is changing less quickly in the boardroom. While more than 20% of general counsel expressed a desire to become members of their company’s board of directors, fewer than 9% of respondents have a seat on their board.

“This data will be very valuable to business leaders, in-house counsel, and particularly the law firms that serve their needs on a daily basis,” said Harry Trueheart, Chair of TerraLex, a referral network of more than 150 law firms in 100 different countries. “The role of general counsel is a dynamic one, and that is borne out by the results showing their deep involvement in everything from mergers to protecting corporate reputations.”

Responses to a topic of enduring interest to law firms—how general counsels select firms they give work to—confirm that general counsels fall back on those they trust, with direct referrals (85%) and law firm networks (17%) cited as the most important sources of information in researching firms. Today’s general counsel are also making use of modern tools in selecting firms, with 33% saying they perform research online and 28% making use of online auctions in farming out work.

Selecting counsel in foreign jurisdictions may be a greater concern than ever for general counsel, 80% of whom report involvement in their company’s cross-border transactions. For such searches, 52% of general counsel reported always or sometimes referring to law firm network websites.

About TerraLex:

TerraLex is one of the world’s leading international legal networks. With more than 155 top independent law firms and more than 17,000 attorneys in 100 countries, TerraLex members provide the legal resources and expertise needed to conduct seamless business worldwide.


Timothy Shannon, 305-764-3014