The role of the in-house lawyer is increasingly moving away from legal work to concentrate on business issues, research has found.

A survey of UK heads of legal and general counsel by resourcing consultancy FreshMinds Legal found that, on average, just 38% of the day is now spent on legal work.

Participants reported that 62% of their time is focused on management and business strategy.

This trend is likely to increase, with 86% of GCs and heads of legal predicting that business skills will be as important as legal skills within three years.

But despite the nature of the role changing, newly recruited lawyers are not required to demonstrate leadership ability, the survey suggests.

Only 14% of respondents classed leadership skills as ‘crucial’ when hiring mid-career lawyers, suggesting there are still perceived barriers to in-house counsel making it into the boardroom.

‘It’s no longer good enough for GCs and their teams to just be good lawyers – they need to be good leaders as well,’ said Roshana Gammampila, head of FreshMinds Legal.

‘Just as leadership skills are prioritised in mid-level in-house strategy consultants, they should be prioritised in mid-level in-house lawyers.

The research was based on responses from 38 heads of legal or GCs at FTSE 350 (and equivalent) companies.