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Canadian in-house lawyers provide 'risk management'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 23/04/13

In-house lawyers in Canada feel they provide the most value to their organisations when managing or reducing risk, but often consider that they are weighed down by the daily grind to an extent that makes it difficult to do the more important parts of their job, according to a new report.

This year's In-House Counsel Barometer Survey, published by Canadian Lawyer magazine, claimed that risk management is followed by helping achieve strategic and operating objectives (45 per cent) and providing strategic advice (43 per cent) as the key offerings made by general counsel.

This will sound familiar to many in-house workers, with tactical decision-making increasingly seen as a key part of the internal lawyer's armoury - something that has pleased many people working in the sector, who feel this offers them an increasing degree of power within their organisations.

However, taking on further responsibilities has not stopped in-house lawyers from needing to cope with the day-to-day work that has traditionally kept them occupied - again, a trend that has been recognised across the globe.

Jodi Shanoff of Vision Critical, who presented the research in Toronto, said "mitigating and controlling costs" is central to the policies of many businesses, meaning lawyers are being asked to do more with less.

On the bright side, though, teams are set to get larger - about one third of those surveyed believe their department has grown over the past year and roughly the same number feel their staff will increase over the next three years.

This growth in teams also means that there will be more 'insourcing' seen with many in-house teams - that is, cash will be saved through avoiding collaborating with external companies.

Speaking to the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association's national spring conference in Toronto last week, in-house lawyer Major-General Blaise Cathcart suggested that it is crucial general counsel maintain their independence within an organisation.