Hiring General Counsel: 4 Ways to Close the Deal

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Today’s General Counsel is much more involved in shaping the direction of most companies, and the role continues to evolve. More than 71 percent of company board directors said their General Counsel actively contributes to corporate strategy development, according to a recently released survey by executive recruiting firm BarkerGilmore.

The next General Counsel you hire must have a solid grasp on business objectives in addition to a proficiency in all legal matters, including compliance.

As you attract top talent, candidates need to know they will be valued in this expanded role and still have ample opportunity for growth even as they reach the pinnacle of their career.

Here are four ways to demonstrate that your company is the best fit for them.

Highlight how they will be members of the C-Suite.

GCs want to be members of the executive team. Gone are the days the GC only attends to legal matters.

The candidates that catch your attention are likely being courted by several other companies, including your competition. Be clear about what sets your company apart. Talk about the mission, values and opportunities available before you start talking about the compensation package. Make it clear that you’re looking for a leader who will work as a member of the C-suite to drive the company’s strategy. Instead of focusing on what you want, let the candidates know what’s in it for them.

Sell them on a unique opportunity.

The best lawyers don’t just want a cushy job. They are successful executives who are motivated to work with the business team and remove obstacles to the company being successful. Top talent wants a challenging assignment and wants to know their counsel will be highly regarded.

They want to know growth prospects, challenges and how much their input will count. The role needs to be positioned properly with the candidate as well as the rest of the organization. Work with your management team to write a detailed description of the opportunity and what it entails. What makes this position different from other GC roles? Does it include additional responsibilities, such as human resources or risk management? The right candidates will be excited, rather than intimidated by the challenges.

Pay top talent accordingly.

The economy hasn’t fully recovered, but the best talent always has options. Do your homework so you’ll be prepared to make a competitive offer. Use guidelines from your industry as a starting point, but tailor the figure appropriately. You need to factor in the size of your company, the size of the department and the budget your General Counsel will manage.

Be prepared for counter offers.

Be prepared to respond to a counter offer from the candidate’s current employer or a competitor. Gaining a better understanding of what motivates your candidate and why he or she is considering a job change during the interview can help you and the candidate avoid some surprises.

Don’t be afraid to ask how they would handle a counter offer. Candidates aren’t often expecting it, and you don’t want your best candidate to be caught with his or her guard down. At the same time, let the individual know you don’t want them to burn any bridges with a previous employer. Stay in contact with your candidate as he or she gives notice. Make it clear that you are excited to bring him or her on board and you’re willing to do what it takes to make that happen as quickly as possible. Remember, compensation demonstrates commitment.

Address the realities of relocation.

The real estate market remains depressed in many areas, making it difficult for top candidates to accept otherwise desirable positions. A relocation package that helps remove this barrier can make your offer more attractive. Be realistic about your candidates’ willingness to relocate. Moving in the middle of the school year can be a difficult decision for families, as can moving when the candidate’s spouse also has fulfilling career opportunities. Make sure your top candidates have a good understanding of your city, its schools and neighborhoods. You want to hire General Counsel who is committed to building a future, not someone who sees your company as the next rung in the corporate ladder.

Your General Counsel adds tremendous value to your company, leading the charge in both legal and regulatory affairs. He or she must be an influencer who is well-respected by senior executives. As you assess candidates, they are assessing your company and the opportunities that exist for them. Working with a legal recruiting firm that specializes in hiring General Counsel can help you assess candidates and make a competitive offer.

For more advice on hiring General Counsel that is the best possible fit for your corporate culture, download our free guide “How to Recruit Top General Counsel.”

How to Recruit Top General Counsel  

Topics: Recruiting   |   Bob Barker

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