Hiring a General Counsel

Globalization, business competition, mergers, compliance issues, and globalization have all had an impact on the general counsel’s legal function. CEOs today look to their general counsel as business and legal advisers. They must address all the company’s issues. The general counsel is not only a strategic business partner but also a legal advisor. They must also manage, train and organize.

These vacancies are more complex than ever because of the increasing complexity of the role as general counsel. Even the most skilled CEOs and human resources professionals may find it difficult to accurately assess applicants and determine the subtleties required to fill this role. These are five things companies should consider when hiring general counsel.

1. Take a look inside

To replace a departing general attorney, the best way is to raise a candidate from an existing legal department. General counsels are increasingly responsible for developing talent, mentoring and creating succession plans. This often results in strong candidates for the general counsel role being made available by internal talent.

Although internal candidates should be part of every company’s long-term succession plan, not all companies can afford this type of activity. This requires that the company has a general counsel and enough internal lawyers with the skills and experience required to become general counsel candidates. So succession planning is best for larger legal departments. If a company is looking for its first general counsel, or has limited resources to recruit internal candidates, outside recruitment becomes an obvious option.

2. Prioritize Core Competencies

Improperly managing expectations is the biggest obstacle to hiring a general attorney. Companies that seek to hire their first general counsel often look for the “perfect” candidate, rather than the “right”. Although these two types of candidates do not necessarily have to be compatible, they can produce very different results depending on how you approach them. It is not the problem of imposing a “perfect” candidate description on candidates with too many requirements. Instead, it is about prioritizing the core competencies that will be required to fill the role.

Many companies would love to have a general counsel for a large public company. They would appreciate all the intelligence and professionalism that such a position would bring. This exclusive candidate pool is extremely small and most companies do not have the resources to hire these candidates. The best part is that most companies won’t require a general counsel from the candidate pool. These companies face the greatest challenge in recruiting: how to establish appropriate expectations and requirements for their general counsel candidates. These requirements can be very demanding, but decision-makers need to be realistic in identifying the competencies that are most important and relevant for the job.