7 Trends for Fortune 500 General Counsel Appointments in 2019

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Every year, we see approximately 10% of Fortune 500 companies appoint a new General Counsel. In 2019, 56 lawyers were appointed to the enterprise GC or CLO post. BarkerGilmore’s research team further dissected these findings to shed light on the path leading to this highly sought-after position.

We were encouraged to learn that 84% of the 25 women appointees replaced male incumbents, increasing the overall percentage of women GCs in the Fortune 500 to 33% in 2019 up from 28% in 2018 and 26% in 2017. Further, as succession planning continues to be critical for sitting GCs, it was not surprising to see 62% of new appointments resulted from internal promotions.

The following summarizes other groundbreaking elements from 2019 data:

1. 

56 

Fortune 500 companies appointed a new General Counsel or Chief Legal Officer in 2019.
2. 

35 

of these appointments 

(62%) 

were internal promotions.
3. 

30 

of the newly appointed GCs were women and/or minorities, representing 

54% 

of all appointments made over the year.
4. A total of 

25 

women 

(45%) 

were newly appointed; 15 were promoted from within, while 10 came from outside, including 5 former sitting GCs.
5. 

20 

of the newly appointed women replaced male GCs.
6. Of the internal successors, 

20% 

of women and 

5% 

of males were promoted to GC within two years of joining the company.
7. The average tenure before internal promotion to GC was

13 

years for women and 

14 

years for men.

 

Outside Hire versus Promoted from Within

What does it take to become a Fortune 500 General Counsel?

The motivation behind this article comes from the sheer volume of times lawyers ask us, “What does it take to become a Fortune 500 General Counsel?” As the results show, one cannot stereotype the journey to General Counsel by skillset or career path. And it’s something we’ve been saying for decades. Appointees come from corporations, law firms, and government agencies, representing a myriad of practice areas including corporate law, labor and employment, litigation, regulatory, and IP. According to CEOs and sitting GCs, the common threads leading to a General Counsel appointment point to abilities not found on a resumé: gravitas, establishing trusted relationships, leadership experience, success working outside of their core practice area, performance on high-stakes matters, mentorship, access to the board, and cultural fit.

Former Positions of Outside Hires

Former Positions of Outside Hires

Everyone at BarkerGilmore is committed to the advancement of others through the placement and development of General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officers, and succession talent. In over 30 years of recruiting, nothing is more satisfying than watching a candidate thrive. We are proud of our mission to move the needle on leadership diversity and look forward to the work and new relationships awaiting us in 2020. To partner with BarkerGilmore for an executive search or to learn more about our coaching and mentoring services for legal counsel, contact our team today.

Topics: GC Succession

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