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The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is the world's largest organization serving the professional and business interests of attorneys who practice in the legal departments of corporations, associations, nonprofits and other private-sector organizations around the globe.

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ACC, in partnership with Exterro, the exclusive ACC Alliance Partner for eDiscovery, data privacy, and cybersecurity, present the results of the 2021 Chief Legal Officers Survey. This study of chief legal officers and general counsel builds on responses from 947 participants in organizations spanning 21 industries and 44 countries. The report contains four main sections:

  1.  The Chief Legal Officer's Role and Reach

  2.  The Legal Department's Value to the Business

  3.  The Political and Regulatory Landscape

  4.  The Outlook for the Legal Department

Key Demographics


The 2021 Chief Legal Officers Survey represents the views of 947 chief legal officers and general counsel across a wide range of countries, industry sectors, and organizations.

Participating legal departments also varied substantially in terms of the number of legal staff and annual company revenue.

participated this year

including manufacturing, finance, services, and more

representing all global regions

Survey Highlights

  • Takeaways

    1. The clo is a key business partner

    The CLO continues to play a significant role in overall business strategy and decision-making, and regularly participates in board meetings, provides input on business decisions, and is sought out by other business leaders to discuss operational and risk areas.

    2. many departments expect to add lawyers in 2021 despite pandemic

    Despite the COVID-19 pandemic nearly one third of departments plan on adding lawyers to their in-house teams in 2021. Twenty percent of departments plan on adding paralegals and 12.7 percent expect to hire additional legal operations professionals.

    3. legal operations is now a strategic initiative

    Sixty-one percent of legal departments now have at least one legal operations professional on staff, by far the highest percentage we have observed since tracking this metric. This is a 6.7 percentage point increase over the last year and a near 40-point increase since 2015.

    4. data privacy concerns continue to impact organizations

    Over half (53.6 percent) of CLOs believe that data privacy protection rules will pose one of the biggest challenges to their organization. In addition, nearly 80 percent say they are at least somewhat concerned about changing data privacy laws in the jurisdictions where they do business and 18 percent are very concerned.

    5. esg and d&i issues take center stage

    As attention to ESG issues continues to increase, CLOs say many aspects of their corporate strategy are being impacted including that of product development on the environment, third-party relationships and supply chain standards, and investor and stakeholder expectations.

  • Methodology

    Survey instrument: The survey questionnaire was offered through an online survey platform.

    Fielding period: The survey opened on October 1, 2020, and closed on November 29, 2020. Reminder emails were sent weekly.

    Target population: ACC members worldwide who are the highest-ranked legal officers in their respective legal departments. A screener question was asked to help determine the most relevant population.

    Participation: A total of 947 GC and CLOs participated. Apart from targeted email messages, opportunities to participate were also sent through LinkedIn campaigns.