If your goal is to become an extraordinary General Counsel, start by becoming an extraordinary General Counsel candidate.
You’ve put in the work and now you’re ready to make the transition—from a top-producing lawyer to General Counsel at a company of your dreams. You’ve been keenly observing from the sidelines, adopting practices and behaviors that characterize successful GCs. You know that the General Counsel role is complex and demanding. You’re not afraid of responsibility and you never run from risk.
The executive search professionals at BarkerGilmore place top legal talent in highly coveted positions using industry-leading technology and a proprietary search process. Most important, we have intimate and often exclusive access to the most accomplished in-house counsel, law firm lawyers, and existing GCs in the country. We’ve seen it all and we know what it takes to reach that top job.
Here’s what we recommend:
- Become an astute businessperson. Stop speaking like a lawyer and start talking the language of business. Don’t deliver a memo on the law. Instead provide a solution to a business problem. There are many ways to advance your business acumen, including by reading relevant business and industry publications, attending networking events and identifying a business mentor.
- Hone your management skills. A successful GC is a legal leader who must assemble the right team members and inspire them to work cooperatively toward shared goals. Your job is not only to manage the functioning of your team, but to administer its dysfunction as well.
- Never lose sight of your purpose. GCs, and all in-house counsel for that matter, exist for one primary purpose—to make money for shareholders. While cutting costs and boosting revenue may not have figured into your law school curriculum, they are essential skills in the corporate setting. Today’s GCs are part of the executive leadership team and are expected to contribute at the highest levels of decision-making.
- Be flexible about where you live and what you do. It comes down to numbers—there are many more in-house counsel jobs than there are GC positions, especially the more senior ones. If you want to become a GC you may need to readjust your expectations about geography. Unlike consultants and sales professionals, lawyers are not accustomed to frequent moves. But if you’re heading to the top, you may have to head out of town. Similarly, you need to wrap your head around the fact that the types of matters you will work on as GC may be quite different from those you’ve tackled in the past. Prepare yourself by accepting a wide variety of assignments.