Who Needs Outside Counsel? In-House More Self-Reliant These Days

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on April 12, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Fewer in-house counsel are outsourcing legal work -- a change that reflects a power shift between in-house and outside counsel, a new survey suggests.

Only 20% of in-house legal departments turned to an outside law firm to handle tax issues in 2011, according to the Association of Corporate Counsel's Census Report. That's down from 30% in 2006.

The ACC's report, released March 28, found two other practice areas where retaining outside counsel is also on the decline. And it detailed a few more statistics that seem to indicate in-house counsel are becoming increasingly important.

Along with tax issues, in-house counsel are also relying less on outside counsel for handling mergers and acquisitions, the ACC survey found. Only 28% of in-house counsel sought outside counsel for M&A issues, compared to 35% in 2006.

Similarly, 65% of in-house departments sought outside help for litigation issues in 2011. That's down from 69% in 2006.

The ACC Census results show "that the in-house profession is growing and having a greater impact within their companies," ACC President and CEO Veta T. Richardson said in a statement. "This increase in responsibilities reflects the evolving role of in-house counsel and the priority they are placing upon serving the business and legal counseling needs of their companies."

With added responsibilities come with added resources for many in-house departments. In-house budgets increased, on average, 18% in 2011, the ACC says.

And it seems in-house counsel are getting paid more as well. More than one in five -- 22% -- earn more than $300,000 a year in salary and bonuses, up 16% from 2006.

That may help explain why the vast majority of in-house counsel -- 92% -- say they're satisfied with their jobs. Just 2% answered negatively, according to the ACC survey.

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