Most General Counsel probably didn’t go to law school to learn customer service—but some are finding it’s now part of their job description.
The role of General Counsel is expanding to include much more than providing sound legal advice. In fact, 86 percent of CEOs and company directors said their General Counsel is a key member of the management team, while 98 percent said they added value to compliance and ethics, according to results of a survey we conducted with Corporate Board Member.
It’s not uncommon to see General Counsel involved in human resources, auditing and even business development.
Here are three less common roles and responsibilities today’s GCs are assuming—roles your company may want to consider when hiring General Counsel.
1. Customer Experience
The top lawyer at United Airlines Inc. recently resumed the role of customer care and experience. The airline currently ranks last among U.S. airlines in customer satisfaction, so General Counsel Brett Hart clearly has his work cut out for him.
He’ll be responsible for handling high-profile customer service problems that can impact the company’s reputation, such as a recent incident where United Airlines angered a group of monks.
Hart brings a legal perspective to a role that formerly rested on the shoulders of the chief marketing officer. He’ll be able to use his expertise to offer recommendations about how the company should respond to potentially damaging customer concerns.
This may not be a typical model, but we’re likely to see more General Counsel weighing in on customer service matters as an extension of business strategy.
2. Crisis Communications
It’s not uncommon for the legal department to review news releases and statements with the potential to impact publicly traded companies, but many General Counsel are taking this a few steps further by becoming actively involved in crisis communications.
These days, it’s not a matter of if a company will encounter a crisis; it’s a matter of when. Bad news travels like wildfire via the Internet, and everyone with a mobile phone or a laptop has the potential to spread it.
General Counsel are recognizing the need to prepare for the next crisis before it happens. Some are even leading the charge in developing a crisis communications plan and assembling a team of well-trained staff including senior leaders and public relations professionals.
3. Social Media Policy Expert
Companies are finding social media has made business increasingly complicated, and the landscape is constantly evolving. The National Labor Relations Board became the first federal agency to decide how employees’ use of social media fits into existing employment laws, with the NLRB’s Acting General Counsel weighing in on employer actions.
As companies continue to develop and revisit their own social media policies, the General Counsel can be a trusted source of guidance.
These are just three areas where we see General Counsel becoming involved in unprecedented ways, but there are numerous others. Today’s General Counsel are stepping in to take the lead on issues involving ethics and compliance, data management and even cybersecurity.
They need a broad slate of skills and specific traits to be successful. If you’re hiring General Counsel soon or planning for the future, you’ll need a new strategy to recruit the right candidates. Working with a team of experienced legal recruiters can help. Not sure what to look for or how to start the search? Download our guide, How to Recruit Top General Counsel.