Nearly one-third of global general counsel/chief legal officers say their companies have been targeted by a regulator in the past two years, according to the latest survey from the Association of Corporate Counsel.

Veta Richardson, ACC president and CEO, calls that number “astounding” and says it reflects the increased risk companies are exposed to as they expand their cross-border work.

Some 1,302 general counsel or CLOs from 41 countries responded to the “ACC Chief Legal Officers (CLO) 2016 Survey.”

Ethics/compliance remains the legal chiefs’ top worry this year, followed closely by regulatory issues and data breaches, according to the survey results.

Richardson says a couple survey findings surprised her. One was the rise of ethics/compliance challenges to the top position; another was the rise of regulatory issues to the second position on the list, because it didn’t even make the list last year.

CLOs in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean reported the highest rate of regulatory concern. And companies with large law departments (more than 50 legal department employees) were more likely to be targeted than smaller ones.

About 37 percent of respondents said they increased in-house staffing levels in the past 12 months. And the percentage that reported having a legal operations staff more than doubled, to 48 percent, another pleasant surprise to Richardson.

“We’re enthused to see general counsel delegating more of their internal operation and management responsibilities to legal operations professionals, freeing up more of their time for the important role as strategic business adviser to their corporations,” she says.

ACC, which formed a membership division specifically for legal operations professionals, has seen the group grow by 52 percent since last June to almost 400 members from 258 companies.

Richardson says the legal management professionals can employ innovative strategies to reduce costs, use technology in new ways and restructure work flows away from the GC.

In other findings, the survey showed:

►The gender pay gap continues, with 31 percent of female CLOs making less than $200,000 while only 21 percent of men make less than that.

►The health care industry remains the segment most heavily affected by breaches, with 49 percent reporting a data breach in the last two years. Second was the education industry with 45 percent reporting breaches.

►Contrary to traditional spending patterns, this year CLOs reported larger internal budgets than external ones, saying 53 percent of their budgets were devoted to internal spending. Complex litigation was the most common work to outsource to law firms.