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Eight-five percent of chief legal officers and general counsel find their careers rewarding despite increased corporate governance demands and sometimes tense relationships with independent auditors, according to a new Association of Corporate Counsel survey. Chief legal officers (CLOs) responding to the association’s eighth annual survey also anticipate that nearly a third expected to add staff over the next year and that records management would be an emerging issue for in-house attorneys this year. Over the next 12 months, 32.3% of respondents expected to hire more in-house lawyers, 54.6% did not, and 13.1% weren’t sure. While 59% of CLOs and general counsel revealed that increased monitoring by law enforcement and regulators had only a modest influence on their career satisfaction, 30.6% said it would make a “considerable impact” on their future decisions, such as looking for a new CLO job or retiring. Survey respondents also reported strained relationships with outside auditors, with only 16% noting improvements over the past few years, 25% characterizing interactions as more difficult and 59% responding that the relationship was unchanged. For respondents who considered their relationship with outside auditors more difficult, 55% traced the attitude shift to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 corporate governance reforms, 12% cited demands for disclosure of privileged information and 11.5% blamed the auditor’s insistence non-negotiable terms. The results indicate a change in “perceptions about the respective roles and boundaries,” said association president Frederick J. Krebs. “Although employed or engaged by the same company, and sharing a common interest in appropriate financial disclosure as required by securities laws, outside auditors and in-house lawyers bring different perspectives to their roles and each must meet different legal and regulatory requirements that apply to their respective missions in the audit process,” Krebs said. How CLOs and general counsel spend their time was similar to the 2006 CLO survey, with 70% of time spent on corporate transactional work, 28% on compliance and 21% on board relations. Respondents identified records management as a major action area this year, trailed closely by staffing issues, including recruiting, retention and training. In the prior year survey, respondents pegged international expansion and globalization as major issue for 2007, followed closely by records management. The association collected 1,166 responses in October and November 2007 from its 5,355 U.S. members, mostly from online submissions but also from surveys completing at its annual meeting in October. CLOs and general counsel at all size companies participated, including: 52% from companies with less than $500 million in annual revenue; 29% from companies with $500 million to $2 billion in revenue; 14% from $2 billion to $10 billion companies; and 5% from companies with at least $10 billion in sales.

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