APAC GCs Say Legal Departments Are Too Under-Resourced To Be Effective, Axiom Study Finds
Findings further suggest APAC GCs are starting to embrace ALSPs as a solution
SINGAPORE, July 6, 2023 – Being an APAC-based General Counsel (GC) is hard, according to the results of a survey by Axiom, the global leader in high-caliber, on-demand legal talent. Findings from Axiom’s APAC General Counsel Survey Report: Managing the Unmanageable, which surveyed 300 Hong Kong (HK) and Singapore-based GCs across a wide range of industries, reveal three concerning and universal headlines. APAC GCs are:
1. Struggling to navigate budget cuts and hiring freezes. They say budget constraints will further erode their already under-resourced department. Many believe the cuts will be deep and the freezes imminent.
2. Sceptical that either law firms or internal hires can address their resourcing challenges. Why? First, because of the high costs associated with both. These GCs also note the tremendous difficulty of finding and hiring the right talent to meet their needs.
3. Unhappy with their careers. They are stressed and dissatisfied, citing an unmanageable workload and poor work-life balance.
“Given increasing workloads and decreasing budgets, the headline findings are concerning, but not surprising,” said Yolanda Chan, Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Axiom “Our intention was to look behind the headlines and to uncover the more nuanced pain points of the legal function. For that reason, we didn’t want to simply understand that GCs feel under-resourced – we want to identify where, specifically, they feel a dearth of expertise and how they anticipate those needs will change over time.”
Continued Chan: “The survey results paint a complicated picture of a legal department that needs skill remediation right now but is struggling to efficiently access legal consultants with the necessary skillsets through traditional channels.”
Struggling to Do More with Less
Survey findings reveal that APAC GCs are facing a parallel crisis of budget cuts and increasingly complex workloads. Ninety per cent of APAC GCs say their legal department budget has been cut as a result of economic conditions and ongoing volatility. On average, APAC budget cuts represent 3% of company revenue—which in real dollars, is significant. Singapore-based GCs have seen their budgets shrink by US$3.7M and their HK peers have experienced budget cuts averaging US$1.7M. This is despite the fact that approximately half (45%) of APAC GCs report their department is seeing an increase in both the volume and complexity of legal matters.
These compounding issues create a perfect storm for GCs trying to maintain a staff capable of doing more with less. In fact, the vast majority of APAC GCs (92%) say their department does not have the necessary staffing resources in-house to do its job effectively. Moreover, more than one-third (35%) of APAC GCs feel they do not have the right legal expertise on their team to address current or anticipated legal needs. Just where is that expertise lacking?
The top 3 current deficits include labor & employment, regulatory and compliance, and real estate expertise. Looking forward, APAC GCs believe they will face future deficits around new/emerging areas, banking/finance, and data privacy and cyber security matters. That these deficits are set to change so quickly suggests a fast-moving environment where expertise is incredibly valuable and finding the right talent is key.
Addressing Resourcing Challenges: Internal Hires
APAC GCs can’t just hire their way out of trouble—and they know it: only 21% call hiring additional full-time legal consultants an appropriate solution to address their resourcing issues. Why? There are a few reasons.
First, 93% of APAC GCs anticipate a hiring freeze this year. Second, because in-demand expertise is evolving so quickly, hiring permanent staff won’t effectively address current or anticipated expertise.
Third, permanent headcount is expensive. In fact, the majority of APAC GCs (61%) cited cost as the primary reason full-time hires are not an adequate response to resourcing needs.
Addressing Resourcing Challenges: Law Firms
When ‘staffing up’ doesn’t work, GCs look to ‘send out’ to law firms. Many GCs have long-standing relationships with law firm partners to whom they can turn for high-quality and experienced counsel. These relationships are particularly critical for exceptional events and bet-the-company matters. They are less helpful for supporting ‘overflow’ work, as noted by the fact that only 33% of APAC GCs say law firms are an effective solution for their current concerns.
According to over half of survey respondents, much of it is a matter of cost. Globally, law firm clients expect rate increases between 5-15% in 2023, with some firms expected to hike rates by 30%+
The Solution: Flexibility
Survey findings indicate that APAC GCs are eager to solve for their resourcing challenges by embracing the benefits of flexibility. Unlike expensive law firms and in-house hires, 62% of APAC GCs overall (and 72% of HK-based GCs in particular) say elite ALSPs, like flexible legal talent providers offer better value for every budgeted dollar.
APAC GCs also recognise the many benefits of working with these ALSPs that extend well beyond cost. Almost half (46%) say that ALSPS offer effective administrative management to ease the burden of law firm supervision.
Concluded Chan: “How can growing demands and shrinking support still equal high performing legal teams? The solution, according to the majority of GCs, is to embrace flexible legal talent. This modern model not only improves risk mitigation by matching legal matters to the right legal consultants, but it also allows APAC enterprises to minimise the sunk costs of permanent in-house hires and limit law firm spend to exceptional events. Our survey findings reveal that flexible talent is the right resourcing solution to complement in-house teams and their firms as GCs seek to navigate a recessionary economy.”
The survey, which was conducted by global research firm Coleman Parkes between January and February 2023, surveyed 150 Singapore-based and 150 Hong Kong-based General Counsels working at companies with an annual average revenue of US$1 billion across a wide range of industries regarding their current roles and career trajectories.
Axiom is where legal teams go to find the right talent for everything from ongoing in-house matters to complex outside counsel work. Too many lawyers and legal departments are stuck in a forced compromise. Legal departments have high standards when it comes to finding the right talent and getting the right value. And top lawyers want to get more control over how, when, and where they practice. Axiom shares and meets the higher standards of its clients and lawyers– connecting mid-market and Fortune 500 companies with the world's deepest bench of experienced, specialized legal talent. Axiom. Higher standards welcome. www.axiomlaw.com
Hazel RamirezPlat4orm PR