Allocation of responsibilities within the legal department of multinational companies

Regarding assignment of structure and responsibilities, the three most common choices from a recent survey were “mainly by business area or product line” (25.3%), “mainly by area of law” (25.3%) and mainly by geographic area (16.9%). This data dates from early 2007 when 84 companies responded to an online questionnaire addressed to general counsel of leading multinational companies. Three-quarters of the respondents are from companies with their headquarters in Northern Europe or the UK and Ireland (See my post of Nov. 9, 2006: previous survey results.). PLCLaw Dept. Quart., Vol. 3, April-June 2007, at 24, presents the data and gives rise to several observations.

No best practice exists for how general counsel of large law departments assign areas of responsibility to their lawyers. The split is fairly even between a business unit orientation, a traditional legal-issue orientation, and a part-of-the-world orientation.

Most law departments strike a balance. Smaller slices of the pie chart shown cover hybrids: “partly geographic and partly area of law” (15.7%), “partly geographic and partly product line” (9.6%), and “partly product and partly law” (3.6%).

My third observation is that the geographic orientation, where lawyers cover a region such as Asia/Pacific or EMEA, pertains only to law departments in companies that have global reach. Were this survey to have covered companies that operate almost entirely within a single country, that geographic choice would drop out and the split would probably be fairly divided between business unit – product – and area of law – commercial, corporate, environmental, litigation, etc.

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