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Study Identifies Path Legal Leaders Take to Become a General Counsel

BarkerGilmore LLC - October 28, 2020

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BarkerGilmore 2020 General Counsel Succession ReportFairport, NY (October 28, 2020) – BarkerGilmore, a boutique executive search firm recognized for helping companies build world-class legal and compliance departments nationwide, released their 2020 General Counsel Succession Report today. The data was collected from a random sample of in-house counsel throughout the United States via an online survey administered in July 2020.

“We are thrilled to share the first report in our General Counsel Succession Series with the corporate and legal communities. Becoming a General Counsel is the ultimate achievement for many attorneys we work with, but there is not much existing research on those that have reached the role and those that aspire to do so. Our series will continue to delve into the path to become a General Counsel with the release of several pieces aimed at providing insight into this important topic,” said Bob Barker, Founding Partner of BarkerGilmore, LLC.

Key trends revealed in the report include:

  1. Coaching. Over half (56%) of General Counsel promoted from within their organization report having hired an executive coach. Promoted General Counsel that previously hired an executive coach were more likely to be promoted from within (50%) than those that had not hired an executive coach (26%). Seventy-one percent found the coaching to be extremely valuable (37%) or valuable (34%).
  1. Development. Professional development received by promoted General Counsel and those recruited from outside the organization is very similar. Promoted General Counsel were developed by their organization through expanded scope of responsibility (63%), increased C-suite and board exposure (53%), leadership training (39%), and stretch assignments (37%). At their previous employer, recruited General Counsel experienced an expanded scope of responsibilities (51%), increased C-suite and board exposure (44%), leadership training (35%), and stretch assignments (29%) were the top reported development opportunities.
  1. Outgoing General Counsel. Nineteen percent of outgoing General Counsel stayed within the organization in some capacity after their successor was promoted. Of those General Counsel who stayed on, 67% of them stayed on for over a year. The majority of promoted General Counsel whose predecessor stayed on in some capacity, post-promotion, felt that the outgoing General Counsel’s impact made their job easier (53%). The outgoing General Counsel was less likely to stay when an external replacement was hired (9%). If they did stay on, again, it was likely (53%) they stayed on for a year or more. Recruited General Counsel were less likely to feel the outgoing General Counsel staying on in some capacity made their job easier (33%).
  1. Promoted General Counsel Previous Experience. Only 22% of promoted General Counsel served as an interim General Counsel prior to their permanent appointment. Most (60%) were made aware of their status as a potential successor a year or less before the promotion. Promoted General Counsel were likely to be in their prior role for ten years or less, respectively (0-2 years at 29%, 3-5 years at 35%, 6-10 years at 33%, and 11+ years at 3%).
  1. Recruited General Counsel Previous Experience. Twenty-seven percent of recruited General Counsel learned about their role from an executive recruiter, followed closely by 25% that were contacted by a friend or colleague, and 21% who were recruited directly by the company. Sixty-five percent of recruited General Counsel had previous experience in the same industry as their new role. Of those that did not have experience in their current role’s industry, most work in the Industrial & Manufacturing (38%), Technology (23%), or Consumer (17%) sectors. Those with prior industry experience were most likely to work in the Healthcare and Life Sciences (30%) sector.

To view insights from the full study, download the 2020 General Counsel Succession Survey Report.