Directorships elude heads of in-house legal departments

Not enough in-house legal heads have seats on the boards of the companies they represent, despite the large budgets they control, according to a survey conducted by Eversheds.

The report, Law in Business, based on a poll of 104 heads of in-house legal departments, questions whether career expectations of lawyers are being met by industry.

One key finding shows that while more than half the respondents controlled budgets as large as £500,000, only 17 per cent have seats on the board.

Aleen Gulvanessian, the Eversheds partner in charge of the survey, said the situation for in-house lawyers was improving and pointed out that “five years ago the figure would have been a lot lower”.

She claimed the calibre of in-house lawyers was improving rapidly and predicted that their influence would grow throughout companies.

“It will take time to filter through,” she said, “but in-house lawyers will eventually appear in the boardroom.”

Philip Brown, ex-managing partner of Wilde Sapte and consultant with management consultants Hodgart Temporal, said the UK would follow a trend set in the US, where in-house lawyers were perceived as important members of the executive team.

The survey also revealed that almost a quarter of the total of legal budgets is spent on external advisers and that the average size of in-house teams has risen to 13 lawyers.