- Roughly 98% of legal departments have seen their budgets cut as the result of the economic uncertainty, according to a recent survey of deputy general counsel.
- These cuts come even as 92% of the 200 deputy GCs surveyed said that their legal team does not have the necessary staffing resources to do its job effectively, the report from legal talent platform Axiom found.
- Along those lines, nearly all DGCs (98%) have seen an increase in attrition in their legal department in the past year, with 41% experiencing a moderate-to-significant rise. Additionally, 94% predicted a potential hiring freeze is likely due to the economic circumstances, and 41% reported a freeze is very likely or already happening.
Front-line deputy general counsel are experiencing what Axiom called “a parallel crisis of budget cuts and increasingly complex workloads.”
Almost all of the deputy GCs (99%) reported their department is seeing an increase in both the volume and complexity of legal matters, and the same percentage said their team has a shortage of specific expertise that is needed.
“It’s not just that legal departments are generally understaffed, requiring team members to pick up more work,” the report said. “Instead, it’s that many DGCs don’t feel their team is capable of being successful with what they have available to them.”
“These compounding issues create a perfect storm for DGCs struggling to maintain a staff capable of doing more with less,” the report said.
The areas in which deputy GCs report struggling to find the right internal support include data privacy and cybersecurity (35%), commercial and contract law (35%) and labor and employment (32%).
In-house counsel have said that labor and employment, as well as data privacy/cybersecurity, were the most concerning litigation areas for 2023, according to a recent report from Norton Rose Fulbright.
The Axiom report said 31% of deputy GCs anticipate internal resourcing shortages will develop in the area of litigation and one-third anticipate a shortage in data privacy and cybersecurity.
Amid the figures cited above, 100% of the DGCs surveyed reported feeling stressed or burned out in their current role. This was a much higher percentage than the roughly 80% of GCs who reported feeling that way in a previous Axiom survey.
The Axiom DGC survey was conducted by Wakefield Research in November and December 2022 among 200 DGCs at companies with $5B+ in annual revenue across a wide range of industries.