APAC GCs Say Legal Departments Are Too Under-Resourced: Axiom Study

Being an APAC-based General Counsel (GC) is hard, according to the results of survey by Axiom, the global leader in high-caliber, on-demand legal talent. Findings from Axiom's

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Being an APAC-based General Counsel (GC) is hard, according to the results of 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. Skeptical 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 because 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 even though 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.

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