When and how to move to a General Counsel role

Author Nikki Newton
March 31, 2023

We are often asked the question, when is the right time to make the jump to a General Counsel role and what is the best way to pursue these roles. Deciding when you are ready to take the jump into a General Counsel role can be a significant decision in your legal career. Here are a few factors to consider when making that decision:

  • Legal expertise and experience: To be successful as a General Counsel, you should have extensive experience practicing law and a deep understanding of legal issues related to your industry or organisation
  • Leadership and management skills: As a General Counsel, you will be leading and managing a legal team, so it’s essential to have strong leadership and management skills
  • Business acumen: A General Counsel needs to have a strong understanding of the organisation’s business operations, goals, and objectives, and how legal issues can impact them
  • Strategic thinking: You should be able to anticipate legal and regulatory issues that may impact the organisation and develop strategies to mitigate risks and achieve business goals
  • Communication skills: As a General Counsel, you will need to communicate complex legal issues to non-legal stakeholders, including executives, board members, and employees, so strong communication skills are essential
  • Personal readiness: Consider your personal goals, motivations, and values, and whether the General Counsel role aligns with them

Some of the steps you can take to secure a General Counsel role:

  • Build your legal expertise: Develop your legal knowledge and skills by gaining experience in a variety of legal areas, including contracts, regulatory compliance, and litigation. Consider taking specialised courses or attending conferences to deepen your expertise
  • Gain leadership and management experience: Build your leadership and management skills by taking on management roles or volunteering for leadership positions in professional organisation
  • Network with other professionals: Attend legal events and conferences, join professional associations, and network with other legal professionals. Build relationships with recruiters and search firms that specialise in legal roles
  • Develop business acumen: Build your knowledge of your organisation’s industry and operations, as well as broader business trends and issues that may impact your business
  • Seek out mentorship: Seek guidance and mentorship from experienced General Counsels or legal professionals who can offer advice and insights into the role
  • Consider getting an executive degree: Consider pursuing an executive degree, such as an MBA or executive legal education, to develop your business and leadership skills
  • Prepare for the application process: When applying for General Counsel roles, prepare a strong resume and cover letter that highlights your legal expertise, leadership experience, and business acumen. Practice your interviewing skills and be prepared to speak to your experience and qualifications for the role

Remember that pursuing a General Counsel role is a significant career move that requires careful consideration and preparation. Take the time to build your expertise and network, seek out mentorship and advice, and prepare yourself for the application process to give yourself the best chance of success.

If you would like to discuss pursuing a General Counsel role or would just like some general market or career advice please contact Nikki Newton.

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