Today’s General Counsel are much more likely to be considered key members of the C-Suite, according to the results of an exclusive survey.
The study, “GCs: Adding Value to the C-Suite,” was conducted by national legal recruiters BarkerGilmore and NYSE Governance Services, and surveyed CEOs and directors of publicly traded companies nationwide.
We have found that there has been a dramatic increase in the influence of GCs on the C-Suite. Ten years ago, slightly more than 50 percent of all GCs were members of their respective executive teams. Since then, that percentage has increased to approximately 90 percent. Board members expect their General Counsel to add value as a leader in the C-Suite and bring keen perspectives on company issues.
Here are three principal takeaways of our survey and how you can apply them to your organization.
1. Have a Formal GC Succession Plan
Owing to the elevated importance and influence of the GC on executive teams, there is increasing pressure to have a GC succession plan prepared and readied. As awareness has grown, the efforts and resources being devoted to succession planning have also been amplified.
Nevertheless, the survey found that while 86 percent of the participating CEOs and directors believe that general counsel succession planning is a priority and should be regularly reviewed, only 40 percent of companies have a formal succession plan in place.
These findings emphasize the importance of identifying and grooming a General Counsel successor. They also provide insights into best practices for GC succession planning and illustrate the broad range of competencies and characteristics essential for success in this pivotal position.
Within your organization, focus on hiring top talent with leadership potential. Nurture high performers under the direction of the current GC and reevaluate potential successors frequently.
2. Benchmark Internal Talent
As the General Counsel role has become more influential, strategic, and crucial, a rigorous process for identifying and assessing the next successor is imperative.
Benchmarking internal candidates against external talent provides assurance that the final candidate is the best fit for your company.
In fact, the survey revealed that 90 percent of directors feel that internal candidates should be benchmarked against external ones to ensure that only the most qualified individuals are identified for succession.
Benchmarking is also an important way to define compensation parameters so you can be certain that your package is competitive and appropriate.
3. Consider The Value GCs Add to The Board
General Counsel are increasingly more likely to be considered indispensable members of the executive team.
To elaborate, our survey asked company CEOs and directors to share the characteristics and skills which they value most in their General Counsel. In response, they indicated that they value individuals who are strong business advisers, possess exceptional analytical skills and leadership qualities, and command the respect of their peers.
Additionally, as a trusted adviser to the CEO and board, GCs are frequently being engaged to ensure adherence to best practices and to serve as an ethical sounding board for the executive team.
Company directors are increasingly asking the General Counsel to add value by enhancing their expertise in cybersecurity, social media risk, crisis management, and shareholder engagement. In fact, 67 percent of survey respondents believed that their General Counsel would benefit most from additional expertise in cybersecurity risk.
The results of this survey offer a broad look at the changing role of the General Counsel and their increasing influence in the C-suite.
For more insights, view the full survey.