Additional selection criteria when hiring In-house Counsel

Author Hayden Gordine
January 31, 2024

Hiring In-house Counsel is a critical decision for any organisation, and it’s important to carefully consider various factors to ensure you choose the right candidate. Whilst legal expertise, work experience, and great references are essential, additional thought should be given to the following selection criteria throughout the interview process.

Cultural Fit: Once you have a good understanding of the candidate’s skills and experience, it’s essential to take the interview to the next level and evaluate whether the candidate has the “right attributes” to be a benefit to and benefit from, your organisations culture. This is the missing piece that can make or break your decision to hire the candidate. Is there compatibility between the individual’s values, beliefs, work style, and behaviour, to those of the team or particular team members. In essence, can the person align with and thrive in the established culture of the business? It is critical to hire people who would work well with the people currently in the business.

Adaptability: Adaptability in the legal landscape is a crucial quality for legal professionals due to the dynamic nature of the law and the evolving business environment. In-house Counsel should be adaptable and able to respond effectively to new legal developments, industry changes, and shifts in the business environment. A candidate’s legal skill set only goes so far in-house: business acumen, industry knowledge, and a holistic view of the law are essential selection criteria for the right candidate.

Flexibility: The needs of organisations can change, so hiring a candidate who is not fixed to a certain role or way of dealing with situations is essential. Candidates who have taken on additional responsibilities and looked for challenges outside their role, throughout their tenure, demonstrate this characteristic. Seeing how a candidate’s responsibilities have evolved since starting their previous role, shows their level of flexibility and adaptability.

Curiosity: Look for candidates who exhibit a genuine interest in the world around them and a proactive attitude toward learning and problem-solving. Curious people are more adaptable and often gain a faster and more advanced understanding and appreciation for the business. They can also be more willing to take on new challenges and push themselves to accomplish more. Remember that curiosity is not only about having knowledge but also about the eagerness to acquire it.

Ethical Judgment: Given the critical role of In-house Counsel in providing legal guidance, ethical judgment is paramount. Look for candidates with a strong ethical compass and a commitment to maintaining the highest standards of integrity.

Technology Competence: In today’s digital age, In-house Counsel should be comfortable leveraging technology for managing risk, ensuring compliance, and assisting in day-to-day work.

Communication Skills: For a legal function to operate effectively, the team needs people who can communicate efficiently. The In-house Counsel must be able to explain complex legal concepts clearly and concisely to all stakeholders, both lawyers and non-legal stakeholders. Signs of a good communicator include good eye contact, the use of appropriate and easy-to-understand verbal communication, good body language, and the ability to listen when required. Finding a candidate who can communicate concisely and articulately is critical for success in an In-house Counsel role.

Collaboration and Relationship Building: Evaluate the candidate’s ability to collaborate with colleagues across different departments. In-house Counsel often need to work closely with teams such as finance, HR, and operations, so strong interpersonal skills are essential.

By incorporating these additional criteria into your selection process, you can identify candidates who not only possess strong legal skills but who also aligns with the strategic and cultural needs of your organisation. This holistic approach enhances the likelihood of hiring an In-house Counsel who contributes positively to the legal and business objectives of your company.

As always, please reach out anytime if you or your organisation may benefit from Taylor Root’s specialist legal search and recruitment services.

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