Over the past decade, we have seen a dramatic increase in the influence of General Counsel on company strategy. In 2014, 86 percent of CEOs and directors of publicly traded companies said that they considered their GCs to be a critical component of their executive suite, compared to slightly more than 50 percent a decade ago.
General Counsel are increasingly being asked to provide guidance on a broad range of issues while maintaining and developing specialized expertise in emerging areas. As a result, company leaders are placing greater emphasis on succession planning for this key role.
This year, BarkerGilmore surveyed CEOs and directors of publicly traded companies across the country to uncover perceptions of General Counsel and identify common succession planning practices. The result, “GCs: Adding Value to the C-Suite,” is a cross-section of leading companies across all industries.
We shared some of the most revealing findings of the survey in a recent interview with Corporate Board Member. Here are three key insights we believe will have the greatest impact on companies, C-Suites, and their General Counsel.
GC Succession Planning a Priority
The overwhelming majority of executives we surveyed (86 percent) said that they considered General Counsel succession planning to be important to the success of their company. Yet, despite the prioritization of such planning, only 40 percent of companies surveyed reported having a formal plan in place.
We expect to see the percentage of companies with formal succession plans to grow in the coming years as CEOs, board members and other key executives become more involved in identifying and grooming successors.
Benchmarking GC Candidates Is Expected
As executives consider potential GC successors, it’s critical to evaluate and assess strong internal candidates against top external talent. Our study found that 90 percent of CEOs and directors believe benchmarking is required.
Benchmarking adds rigor to the assessment process and ensures that companies hire the best talent on the market and compensate them accordingly.
Directors Expect GCs to Have Specialized Expertise
In addition to having broad legal and business experience, General Counsel are also expected to have specialized knowledge in emerging areas.
When asked where their General Counsel could benefit most from additional expertise, 67 percent of company directors cited cyber security. Interestingly, the desire for additional expertise in cyber security was closely followed by a need for further expertise in the area of social media strategy.
These emerging trends will continue to shape General Counsel recruitment and succession planning practices at companies nationwide.
For more insights, download the full study.