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The top ranking of “keeping apprised” suggests law department frailties

According to a summary of compliance-related findings from the 2008 ACC/Serengeti Managing Outside Counsel Survey, “For the fourth year in a row, ‘keeping apprised of company activities that have legal implications’ was the top concern of the in-house counsel (81.4% of hundreds of respondents).”

That concern sounds defensive and a touch paranoid, as if the lawyers fear they do not know sufficiently what is happening in their company that involves legal risks. If so, that means they also mistrust executives and managers to recognize when they might need legal guidance. The concern has a pungent whiff of worry about being out of touch and merely reactive. It is impossible for any law department to keep tabs completely on everything going on in a company, because almost every act or failure to act can have a legal repercussion.

I was also surprised that “reducing outside legal spending” was cited as the second most pressing issue (74.5%). More sensible to me would be a concern for reducing total legal spending, which includes internal staff and expenditures. These findings come from the ACC Docket, Vol. 30, Dec. 2008 at 20.