In US legal departments, a good proportion of lawyers dedicate their support to one or more business units. By contrast, among a group of UK legal departments that took part in a recent survey, “around 29% of respondents say their legal function is structured mainly by area of law (compared to 17% last year).” The benchmarking survey of legal risk and compliance, prepared in early 2009 and published by the Practical Law Company, gathered responses from 69 companies.
At page 8 the report says that as to being organized by business unit, “21% of respondents say their legal function is structured mainly by business area or product line (compared to 31% last year).” Geography accounts for the primary structural guide for 11 percent (compared to 17% last year).
More plausibly, a large number mix those structural modes, especially in larger companies. In any event, if my sense of US organizational assignments is correct, UK heads of legal see the optimal structure quite differently.