At some point, your business will have enough legal matters that you need a general counsel or in-house attorney. This lawyer will be your company's chief legal officer. They act as the point person for all your legal issues. They either perform legal work or supervise outside counsel assigned to it.
Your general counsel must not only have legal competence but also match your organization's culture. You need a general counsel job description that highlights the qualifications you expect in an applicant, outlines the general counsel’s responsibilities, and describes your company's values.
General Counsel Job Description Essentials
Your company's general counsel works with your senior management.
- Identify legal issues;
- Ensure legal compliance;
- Establish good corporate governance;
- Plan and develop a legal strategy;
- Interview and approve outside counsel;
- Supervise legal work both in-house and outside your company.
Some qualifications your general counsel will need include:
- Familiarity with the legal issues your company faces;
- Relevant education;
- Experience working with businesses like yours;
- Licensing in the jurisdiction where your business operates;
- Strong research and writing skills;
- Ability to navigate multiple legal issues at once, and work with your team to resolve them.
Suppose that your company manufactures products; you need a lawyer who understands intellectual property and product liability. They must have worked with import and export laws. And they must be familiar with contracts and commercial laws and regulations.
Structuring the Job Description for a Chief Legal Officer
Once you identify what you need from a general counsel, you can develop a general counsel job description. This description must draw in candidates while properly informing them of the qualifications for the job.
Some hints for structuring a general counsel job description include:
- Write a compelling job title that describes the position accurately;
- Describe the job duties and responsibilities of the position;
- Identify the job qualifications;
- Provide an overview of your company, including its values and mission;
- Explain the reporting lines and chain of command, including anyone the general counsel supervises and whom they report to.
For example, you could start with a job title, such as "General Counsel for a Growing Startup Company". Then, you could describe the nature of your business and its values. Explain what you expect your general counsel to do, including the general counsel's duties and responsibilities.
The description should state the general counsel's position in the company's chain of command. Finally, you will describe the educational requirements and any unique areas of experience or practice.
Desired Experience and Qualifications
Your general counsel will probably need to have a law degree, such as a Juris Doctor (JD) or a Master of Laws (LLM) degree. You also need someone with at least one bar admission, preferably in the same state as your corporate headquarters.
But your general counsel job description will also have some unique requirements, such as:
- Years of practice;
- Experience in relevant fields of law or with specific agencies or jurisdictions;
- Additional qualifications, such as specific certifications;
- Domain-specific experience, such as industry knowledge or familiarity with specific technologies.
These descriptions should get you a pool of candidates from which you can schedule interviews.
Key Competencies and Skills
Your general counsel job description should describe the skills required to perform the legal tasks you anticipate. To develop a list of skills, you should think through your legal needs.
Almost all legal jobs will require analytical skills and competency in legal research and writing. But many jobs also require a specific skill set.
For example, if you need someone to supervise litigation, you will need an excellent general counsel with negotiation skills and courtroom competency. Conversely, if your corporate counsel will handle SEC legal compliance, a successful candidate will have experience in corporate law and corporate governance and an eye for detail.
Additional common skills desired for an in-house General Counsel:
- Work with executive leadership on all legal and regulatory matters;
- Monitor and notify the C-suite of legal trends and developments;
- Draft, review, negotiate, finalize, and execute contracts;
- Draft a strong corporate indemnification agreement;
- Create legal templates;
- Review all written agreements before execution to minimize risk;
- Advise on strategies to limit liability exposure;
- Create a company-wide legal framework;
- Train employees on legal processes;
- Draft and implement standard operating procedures (SOPs);
- Negotiate and execute employment agreements and compliant hiring documents;
- Issue severance agreements;
- Facilitate demands for payment, cease and desist letters, and causes of action;
- Draft and administer required state and federal employee training and education;
- Create confidentiality agreements/non-competition agreements and NDAs;
- Protect the company and its assets.
Company Culture and Benefits
An underappreciated job qualification is an alignment with your company's culture and values. If your company is dedicated to giving a portion of its profits to charities, you do not want a general counsel who will roll their eyes when directed to perform due diligence on a new charity. Instead, you want someone who will dive into vetting charities enthusiastically.
You should also explain the tangible and intangible benefits of working for your company, such as:
- Opportunities for promotion and professional development;
- Work-life balance;
- Relaxed environment;
- Stock options;
- Retirement plans.
Above all, be honest about your company and its culture.
Application and Contact Information
Your general counsel job description should end with clear instructions about how to apply. Some documents you might request from a candidate include:
- Writing sample;
- Representative cases;
- Professional references, including lawyers, law firms, and clients you can contact;
- Publications, speaking engagements, or other demonstrations of professional growth.
Provide contact information for the person or department responsible for the job search. And make sure you mention any deadlines, including when the search will close.
You can also describe how and when you plan to conduct interviews. For example, your description might state that you are accepting applications nationwide and will conduct the first round of interviews via video conference within one month.
What About Outside General Counsel to Handle Your Legal Matters?
In-house counsel is not the only route for hiring a general counsel. An outside lawyer can also handle your company's general counsel responsibilities.
Companies that have outsourced general counsel jobs have realized many benefits over an in-house lawyer, including:
- Someone who handles legal work on demand but does not get paid when you have no legal issues;
- A lawyer who needs no benefits, like vacations, stock options, retirement plans, or health insurance;
- A highly skilled general counsel whose salary you might not be able to afford if you hired them full-time;
- No payroll taxes;
- Greater flexibility in firing and hiring than you would have with an employee.
Lawyer For Business handles outside general counsel responsibilities for a variety of businesses. Our firm has a range of pricing plans. Contact us to discuss your company's needs and learn how we can provide you with general counsel legal services.
Our NY General Counsel Packages
*12-month annual commitment required for pricing shown. Month-to-month pricing available at additional charge of 20%. Cancel at any time. 30 days’ notice required to cancel month-to-month plans.
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