Five Key Gaps in General Counsel Succession Planning

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As the importance of the role of General Counsel has grown, succession planning has become a hot topic of discussion. With so much talk about the value of developing future leaders, we investigated the actions (or lack thereof) taken to prepare the next generation of legal leaders.

We surveyed 400 General Counsel from both public and private companies, across all industries, from a wide variety of revenue sizes, and the following gaps in GC succession were identified. 

  1. Long-Term Preparedness:
    43% of GCs reported that they have not yet devoted significant time to succession planning, and 20% are just now in the process of creating a succession plan.

    Long-Term Preparedness

  2. Experience:
    Nearly half of all General Counsel cannot act on experience when implementing a GC succession plan; Only 52% of GCs have experience implementing a successful succession plan, while 48% have never implemented a succession plan previously.

    Experience

  3. Size of the Legal Department:
    Numerous GCs claim that at smaller organizations, it is difficult to retain the successor candidate, who will often take a GC role with a different organization before the current GC is ready to retire. They also commented that company size really matters in forming a GC succession plan itself – while crucial, planning is often more difficult for smaller organizations due to leaner legal departments who have less internal successors to choose from and less of a budget, less resources, and/or less time to plan for the successor. Of the 36% of GCs who have a successor identified, the majority sit at companies with over $5 billion in revenue.

    Size of the Legal Department

  4. Internal Challenges:
    According to GCs, the biggest challenges to succession planning are:
    1. Current lawyers in department lack the qualifications to someday become GC
    2. Law department budget limits hiring of succession candidates
    3. Lack of time necessary to mentor/train a successor

    Internal Challenges

  5. Emergency Planning:
    82% of GCs do not have a permanent solution for GC Succession if the GC left tomorrow!

    Emergency Planning

Key Takeaway:

While the lackluster results of the survey are not surprising, the data reveal that GCs acknowledge the importance of succession planning but may struggle with implementing a plan. Succession planning is not easy. It takes time and a deliberate effort to work with potential candidates to establish development plans and performance objectives. It is human nature to want to feel indispensable, but by delegating responsibilities, the GC can focus on higher value strategic matters or assume broader responsibilities, making themselves even more valuable to the company. History has shown that the return on investment for time and money spent developing others is significant.

BarkerGilmore’s team of expert advisors have years of experience implementing new, successful succession plans, as well as fine tuning existing plans to create a higher return on investment. Whether you are taking the first step in creating a plan or are currently engaged in emergency planning to fill an unanticipated open GC spot, our team can help!

Topics: General Counsel   |   Succession Planning   |   GC Succession   |   Recruiting General Counsel

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