The role of the CLO as a critical business partner continues to expand, according to the Association of Corporate Counsel’s 2023 chief legal officers survey of 892 CLOs across 20 industries in 35 countries. At the same time, a key marker of CLO stature in their organizations appears to have leveled off. In 2018, 64% of CLOs reported directly to the CEO, a number that rose to 77% and then stalled five years ago. “The ‘age of the CLO’ shows no signs of letting up,” says Veta T. Richardson, ACC president & CEO, who points to the continuing expansion and diversification of CLO responsibilities. “The value of applying their unique training and experience to roles outside the traditional legal function is increasingly being recognized as beneficial to the strategic and operational needs of their organizations.” Nevertheless, despite the growing weight of cybersecurity, regulatory, and, especially, privacy concerns, only 38% of CLOs plan to hire more lawyers this year, compared to 45% in 2022, and fewer say they will send more work to law firms and alternative legal service providers. “It does remain to be seen if this slowdown in hiring is a signal that legal departments are nearing their target operational sizes or an indication of a larger pullback in spending due to economic concerns,” concludes the report, which ACC conducted in partnership with Exterro, its exclusive partner for e-discovery, data privacy, and cybersecurity. Bobby Balachandran, president and CEO of Exterro, says the convergence of legal operations, privacy, regulatory compliance, and cybersecurity response is causing a shift in the priorities of CLOs, who name legal ops as their top strategic initiative by a wide margin (70%) over right-sourcing legal services (45%) and cost minimization (43%).