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In-house legal jobs 'face shrinking budgets?'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 07/01/13

It has been universally acknowledged over the last few years that people with in-house legal jobs are increasingly being called upon to work harder and help guide corporate decisions more, gaining a corresponding bump in prestige and earning power.

However, a new report from Consero has suggested that internal litigation teams are being asked to make their resources stretch further and further, taking on more difficult roles while still working with relatively small teams and budgets.

The catchily-titled 2012 Chief Litigation Officer Data Survey found that 66 per cent of firms kept their in-house legal teams the same size in 2011 and 2012, while only 27 per cent increased their numbers.

With concerns over the economy still tightening, especially in the US where the threat of the fiscal cliff is encouraging people to start hoarding food tins and head for the nearest bunker, it seems unlikely that in-house legal teams will be given a major budget to deal with any issues they encounter in the new year.

Although they might have wanted a model helicopter for Christmas, or a white pony called Hustler, they've been given a ball of twine and half a packet of Skittles, with the majority of respondents predicting that funding will be tightened over the course of 2013 as businesses attempt to reduce their outgoings as much as possible.

Consero chief executive officer Paul Mandel said: "With the constant threat of litigation and government investigations and regulations, everyone is anticipating more strain and stress but no one expects to see an increased investment in litigation overhead."

With 31 per cent of chief litigation officers at corporate firms revealing their budget dropped over the course of 2012, it seems likely the amount in-house legal staff have to spend could be squeezed even further in the new year.

On the bright side, though, lawyers in this position are being given unprecedented access to the top of their firm - 96 per cent of respondents felt they had sufficient access to the chief officers across their company, with 86 per cent reporting directly to the general counsel.

And although things may continue to be tight for in-house legal workers over the coming years, this is ultimately an issue faced by people in all manner of corporate jobs as the economy continues to stutter.

This is reflected by the news that 85 per cent of chief litigation officers think they will have the resources to manage their team effectively in 2013.