CLOs Under Mounting Pressure 

Budget cuts, expanding roles, and the quest for efficiency are some of the main areas of concern.

CLOs Under Mounting Pressure 

The recent Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) 2024 CLO Survey (conducted in partnership with Exterro), analyzed 669 CLOs across 20 industries and 31 countries. The findings show Chief Legal Officers (CLOs) are feeling the heat from multiple directions: intense budgetary pressure, an expanding scope of responsibilities, and a mounting concern over data security and compliance. This has resulted in a laser focus on operational efficiency as the top strategic initiative for legal teams in 2024.

Budgetary Blues

Over 42% of CLOs reported experiencing significant pressure to do more with less, with over half (52%) facing cost-cutting mandates in the past year. This echoes similar findings from ACC Docket, which further emphasized the "budget woes" faced by CLOs. "Facing tight budgets, CLOs balance cost-efficiency with steadfast legal diligence," the article stated.

Efficiency First

As a result of these financial constraints, 40% of CLOs ranked operational efficiency as their top strategic initiative for the coming year. This is evident in plans to implement new processes (40%) and invest in technology (45%) to streamline operations, as reported by both the ACC survey and Iberian Lawyer.

Technology as a Lever

Technology plays a crucial role in improving efficiency. Nearly half of the respondents (45%) plan to invest in new legal technology to achieve their goals, according to the ACC survey. This suggests a growing adoption of automation, data analytics, and other tools to optimize workflows and reduce costs, as highlighted in Exterro's press release about the survey.

Collaboration for Success

Beyond technology, 27% of CLOs see improved collaboration with the organization's overall operations department as key to boosting efficiency. This highlights the need for closer alignment between legal teams and other business units to achieve better outcomes, as mentioned in the ACC survey and further elaborated upon in a recent article by CLO Magazine.

Expanding Roles

While focusing on efficiency, CLOs are also juggling an expanding scope of responsibilities. The majority of CLOs (58%) oversee at least three additional business functions beyond legal, such as privacy, ethics, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG), according to the ACC survey. This aligns with data from ACC Docket, which reported that "the role of CLOs and responsibilities continue to expand as a critical, strategic business partner."

Data Concerns

Despite their focus on efficiency, CLOs haven't forgotten about core legal concerns. Regulations and enforcement, privacy, and cybersecurity threats remain top concerns for CLOs, highlighting the need for robust data risk management strategies, as reported by the ACC survey and emphasized in articles by Iberian Lawyer and CLO Magazine.

Work-Life Balance

Balancing efficiency, expanding roles, and data security concerns takes its toll. Despite increased workloads, only 20% of CLOs with significant workload increases reported being happy with their work-life balance, raising concerns about potential burnout, according to the ACC survey. This resonates with a recent article in, which discussed the "unsustainable pace" of work faced by many in-house lawyers.

The Road Ahead

The ACC 2024 CLO Survey provides valuable insights into the priorities and challenges facing legal departments today. As they navigate an environment of financial constraints, expanding responsibilities, and data security concerns, CLOs are prioritizing operational efficiency through strategic investments in technology, collaboration, and process improvement. While achieving this balance won't be easy, a focus on these areas can help legal departments adapt and thrive in today's challenging environment.

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