Philippines

The most responsive sector of this jurisdiction’s In-House Community in this year’s survey is Government/Regulatory, with 29.2 percent represented by this classification. Joint second are Energy/Natural Resources and Financial Services, each with 12.3 percent. Real Estate/Construction in-house counsel, at 9.2 percent, are also well-represented. 7.7 percent of respondents are working in Manufacturing companies and 4.6 percent in the area of Fast-Moving Consumer Goods.

Team sizes
In-house legal team sizes are also more evenly spread than they are in numerous other jurisdictions, with teams of two-to-five being the most common at 38.1 percent. In-house departments with between six and 20 people represent just over a quarter of those surveyed, at 25.4 percent, and teams of 21-50 are had by 19 percent of those asked. The two least popular in-house sizes are one (11.1 percent) and 51 or more (6.3 percent).

The majority believe that their teams will remain the same size over the coming year, with 61.9 percent stating so. Asked why, members of the community in some cases noted that resources were scarce and therefore budgetary constraints would make adding to their teams implausible, while others concluded that their current staff could take on the current workload. The 36.5 percent expecting growth mentioned factors such as growing business, some due to ASEAN integration.

Recruitment
One way in which the Philippines differs from much of the rest of the region covered is its main methods of hiring in-house counsel. Though in most jurisdictions legal recruiters are the preference, in the Philippines this is tied for fifth at 12.3 percent along with referrals from external counsel. The top hiring method is job advertisements (46.2 percent), and this is followed by referrals from other in-house lawyers (30.8 percent), online job websites (21.5 percent) and referrals from others within the delegate’s company (20 percent).

KEY ISSUES AND CONCERNS
Although the country has made clear forward strides in the area over the last few years, “Corruption in government, particularly bribery of government officials” is an issue cited by in-house counsel in the Philippines more than in any other jurisdiction. Along with those in other emerging markets, a typical complaint was that “Inconsistent regulations and vague implementing rules make it extremely difficult to do business and deliver services to our customers”. This senior in-house counsel went on to say “Our industry is highly regulated, and it doesn’t help that the relevant government [departments] are severely understaffed”.

As with their peers around the region, keeping up with new regulations and developments is always a challenge: “The Fair Competition Act is a hot topic right now, and the implementing rules will be scrutinised … Also, data privacy is extremely important despite the absence of the implementing rules, given the heavy overseas regulation”.

Looking to the future, members of the In-House Community in the Philippines expect compliance, FATCA, competition law and developments across ASEAN to keep them busy.

Many observers feel that the Philippines is better placed than many jurisdictions to take advantage of the upcoming ASEAN integration, not least its lawyers, who having native language standards of English, which will be the official language of the ASEAN Economic Community, are well suited for cross-border roles.

Working with external counsel
Just over half of those surveyed (50.8 percent) see themselves using external counsel about the same amount in the coming year, often due to an increased reliance on the in-house team to combat the increased workload and seeing no reason for the amount of work to grow. These were also the main reasons people expected to use external counsel less, along with cost.

Of the 35.6 percent expecting to use external counsel more over the next year, many pointed to business expansion and added complexity of legal issues, as well as a changing regulatory environment.

On what makes certain external counsel stand out, 70.8 percent of participants said expertise in a specific area. 52.3 percent are swayed by the reputation of the law firm, 46.2 percent by fees and the fourth most prevailent reason was responsiveness, with 44.6 percent of the votes. (Figure 21)

Over the past 12 months, a lack of updates on matters has been the main problem when dealing with external counsel in the Philippines according to the 33.8 percent of the community that gave this answer. Excessive fees, which have been found to be a problem by 32.3 percent, and a failure to answer questions in a timely fashion, noted by 27.7 percent, were also recurring issues. (Figure 22)

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