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Study Investigates Legal Leaders Aspiring to Become General Counsel

BarkerGilmore LLC - December 3, 2020

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BarkerGilmore2020-AspiringGeneralCounselReport-COVERFairport, NY (December 3, 2020) – BarkerGilmore, a boutique executive search firm recognized for helping companies build world-class legal and compliance departments nationwide, released their 2020 Aspiring General Counsel 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.

“As we continue our General Counsel Succession Series, we are excited to delve into the experiences of legal leaders that aspire to reach the coveted General Counsel role. With half of counsel aspiring to become a General Counsel at their current company and half aspiring elsewhere, it was interesting to see that the more experience counsel had the less likely they were to aspire at their current company. As we continue the series, we hope the insights from our work provide meaningful insights to the legal community,” Bob Barker, Founding Partner of BarkerGilmore, LLC.

Key trends revealed in the report include:

  1. Who Are They? Most Aspiring General Counsel respondents are currently Deputy General Counsel (29%), Senior Counsel (20%), or Associate General Counsel (17%). Thirty-eight percent of Aspiring General Counsel respondents earned their JD between 1990-1999, followed closely by 36% between 2000-2005. Aspiring General Counsel were equally as likely to learn about their current role from an executive recruiter (23%) as they were to be contacted by a friend or colleague (23%). Fifty-four percent of Aspiring General Counsel are male and 46% are female.
  1. Coaching. Thirty-five percent of Aspiring General Counsel have hired an executive coach. Of those that have hired an executive coach, 79% of Aspiring General Counsel found the coaching either ‘extremely valuable’ (35%) or ‘valuable’ (44%).
  1. Development. In their current role, the professional development most likely to have been received by Aspiring General Counsel includes an expanding scope of responsibilities (55%), leadership training (42%), increased C-suite and board exposure (39%) and stretch assignments (36%).
  1. Aspirations. Forty-nine percent of respondents aspire to become General Counsel at their current company versus 51% that do not. Those with more experience based on their JD year were less likely to aspire to be General Counsel at their current company than those with less experience. In addition, those that identify as ‘Asian or Asian American’ or ‘Black or African American’ were the least likely race identifications to report aspiring to become General Counsel at their current company.
  1. Successor Identification. Twenty-eight percent of Aspiring General Counsel have been identified by management as a potential successor to the General Counsel, compared to 27% who have not been identified, and 45% who are unsure of their successor status. Of those that have been identified as a potential successor, 48% report that their successor status has kept them from pursuing opportunities outside of their organization. Men are more likely (50%) than women (43%) to have reported being identified as a successor by management. However, women are more likely to say that their potential successor status has kept them from pursuing opportunities outside their company, 55% (women) versus 42% (male).

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