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If your General Counsel doesn’t have a seat at the table, you probably need to think about getting a bigger table.

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BarkerGilmore partnered with NYSE Governance Services to produce a timely new survey document, The Rise of the GC: from Legal Adviser to Strategic Adviser. The report synthesizes the views of directors and executives on the role of GCs in light of the expansion of corporate governance. In short, it’s apparent that there are changing executive perceptions about the role and impact of General Counsel.

In addition to traditional areas such as compliance and transactions, our study suggests that the role of GC will evolve to include strategic domains including enterprise risk oversight and crisis management.

The change in perception is part of a larger shift away from a strictly legal role for GCs and toward one that embraces broader oversight and responsibility.

According to Eric J. Dale, chief legal officer at Nielsen, “The most effective General Counsel bring to the role not only an intimate understanding of the business, the industry and the global economy…but they develop talented, motivated legal teams that operate in sync with the day-to-day business.”

Survey says: General Counsel impact expected to expand in these 5 areas


We found that 78% of GCs act as corporate secretary and 55% are also their companies’ chief compliance officer. Survey respondents expect these titles to shift within the next several years, with fewer GCs acting as corporate secretary and chief compliance officer, and more taking on the duty of chief risk officer and chief government relations officer. Here then are the functional areas where GCs are expected to add the most value to their boards in 2020 according to the survey:

  1. Rise_of_the_GC_Report_CTA.pngActing as an adviser to the board—79%
  2. Acting as an adviser to the CEO—73%
  3. Promoting best governance practices—65%
  4. Being unafraid to ask tough or sensitive questions—60%
  5. Serving as an ethical sounding board—53%

How the balance among new and traditional roles will play out remains to be seen. Former GE General Counsel Ben W. Heineman Jr. has noted that, “The greatest challenge for General Counsel and other inside lawyers it to reconcile the dual—and at times contradictory—roles of being both a partner to the business leaders and a guardian of the corporation’s integrity and reputation.”

At BarkerGilmore we help leading businesses build integrity and reputation by identifying well-qualified candidates for top legal and compliance positions. Our CustomFit recruiting process leverages our experience, insight and resources to ensure an extraordinary fit and an extraordinarily smooth transition.

Topics: Legal Talent   |   Recruiting   |   Recruiting General Counsel   |   Bob Barker

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