Legal departments seek outside help

Survey shows corporate counsel are relying more on outside counsel for help with increasing litigation caseloads and special projects

A recent survey of 150 corporate lawyers in Canada and the U.S. shows the increasing legal needs of corporate legal departments are forcing them to get more outside help.

The survey was conducted by Robert Half Legal, a staffing and consulting firm based in Toronto. It asked the question, “Has your corporate legal department increased or decreased its work with outside counsel during the last 12 months?” Nearly half (45 per cent) of the lawyers polled said their department had increased their use of outside counsel. Twelve per cent had lessened their reliance on outside assistance and only four per cent didn’t use it at all.

Sixty-six per cent indicated litigation was the type of project they were most likely to assign to outside counsel, outdistancing by far the next most common area, compliance and regulatory matters, at 16 per cent.

Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal, said the increase in caseloads combined with resource and staffing limitations means using outside counsel is becoming more important.

“Outside support canplay a pivotal role in helping busy legal departments and companies meet their business needs,” Volkert said.

Corporate legal departments are also using outside lawyers in areas of specialized legal knowledge not readily available in-house and project lawyers.

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