Attorneys who want to be a general counsel for a company can do a number of things to increase their chances. The most important thing is obtaining the experience necessary to handle the job. This can be a rewarding job, professionally and financially.
General counsel is a sought-after position. The opportunity to be a chief legal officer for a company is the capstone of a career for many attorneys who have previously earned their stripes working in a law firm.
Becoming a general counsel is mainly about personality attributes and skills. The foremost quality necessary is judgment. A general counsel is presented with numerous scenarios each day in different areas of the law. He or she may not be familiar with the particular area of practice, but will need to know how to approach the question. The general counsel needs to know where to begin in evaluating any issue and who to ask for more information.
Beyond judgment, a general counsel will need to have sound people skills. While this may seem like an overused cliché, the general counsel is dealing with numerous constituencies. This includes senior executives and employees of the company. They need a strong executive presence when dealing with anyone. What they say will need to carry authority, so they will need to have built up credibility. Gravitas is the key when addressing senior leaders in the company.
In addition, a general counsel will need to have a strategic vision. In the case of a general counsel, who is often reacting to issues that emerge, strategy is the ability to anticipate what may come across their desk. It also means learning how to manage legal situations in a way that furthers corporate success. While there are times that a general counsel has to say no, corporate executives need their attorneys to “help them get to yes” and find a way to legally pursue business opportunities.
While some of these attributes require innate ability, and they cannot be taught, they also can come from experience. People can hone these skills over time with law firm work and time in an in-house department. A Chicago legal recruiter can help qualified candidates get themselves in position for one of these coveted positions.
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