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5 Important Questions to Ask When Recruiting General Counsel

5 Important Questions to Ask When Recruiting General CounselThe general counsel position is a major part of the executive leadership team. You need someone who displays great leadership skills, sound judgment, and a strong sense of ethics. Finding a candidate who meets all of these expectations as well as your business needs can be difficult. Before sitting down for an interview, you need to consider what skill set and competencies your company needs in a general counsel. For instance, if your company is expecting to start handling acquisitions, then someone with a corporate law background may be beneficial.

To get you started, below are five assessment questions you should be asking a general counsel candidate no matter the scope of the position.

Finding Top In-House Legal Talent

1. How much work would you assign to outside counsel?

Hiring outside counsel is expensive. By asking candidates this question, you can understand how the criteria a candidate uses to determine when to use inside attorney staff and when to hire outside help. It’s also helpful to know how a candidate determines which law firm to hire when seeking outside counsel.

You want to look for three main points in a candidate’s answer to this question.

  1. Experience with outside counsel
  2. Awareness of legal budgets
  3. Knowledge of local law firms

2. How do you control costs within the law department?

The right candidate for the job will have the practical experience and a few recommendations for reducing spending in the law department. A candidate should be suggesting ideas such as relying on in-house legal services as well as utilizing smaller, more affordable, firms when seeking outside counsel.

You need someone who understands budget limitations and comes with creative ways to overcome monetary constraints.

3. What are the three biggest legal challenges you’ve ever faced in business?

Listen to how the candidate solved the problems as well as the overall outcome of the situation. Did the candidate work with stakeholders to develop a strategy? Did the candidate research unfamiliar topics?

The answer to this question will show you how each candidate will handle potential issues that arise at your company.

This question will also help you compare answers between candidates. What one person saw as challenging might be a normal business day for another candidate. The complexity of each challenge will show you the types of problems the candidates have experience handling so far.

4. Describe a situation that presented a significant risk to the organization. How did you deal with it?

It’s really important to understand a candidate’s risk tolerance and risk management. The right candidate will be able to demonstrate what was learned from a risky situation as well as explain how it was handled. If it didn’t go well, then this is an opportunity for the candidate to explain how it would be done better in the future.

Managing risk isn’t always easy and you need someone who can bounce back after an error and do better in the future.

5. What interactions have you had with regulators as well as your executive team?

The general counsel interacts with a number of different people, but regulators and the executive team are two important groups you need to ask about. You want a candidate who has experience working with regulators and who has an organization system in place for maintaining documents.

Since the general counsel will be working alongside your executive team, you want to know how well candidates are currently working with their teams. High-level responsibilities and an expanded role outside of the legal department are two strong signs that a candidate has earned the trust of their executive team.

Including these five questions in your interview will give you a solid understanding of each candidate’s key competencies. The general counsel is a crucial member of your executive team, so understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate is essential to your business.

Check out our industry-leading resources to see why Cowen Partners is a 5-star executive search firm in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Dallas, Los Angeles, and beyond:

Finding Top In-House Legal Talent

What is the Difference Between a General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer?

In-house legal advisors are invaluable to a company. They understand the ins and outs of your business which gives them a better grasp of the potential risks and threats your company faces. High-level positions in charge of your company’s legal matters are even more critical as they oversee the company’s entire legal team. You may be considering hiring a general counsel or chief legal officer to run your company’s legal matters, but maybe you don’t know which position is best for your business. Below are the differences between a general counsel and a chief legal officer.

General counsel

A general counsel is considered a more traditional executive role within a company. The main focus of a GC is to manage a company’s legal compliance as well as corporate governance. The role of GC is also more closely aligned with a high-level lawyer which ensures the company’s legal obligations are all met. A few of a GC’s main job responsibilities are listed below.

Job Responsibilities of a GC

  • Represent the company in court
  • Convey legal advice to company executives
  • Lead and manage the legal team
  • Communicate and oversee compliance regulations with government agencies

Chief Legal Officer

The role of chief legal officer is a newer position than the general counsel and in some ways is an expansion of the general counsel role. The CLO is a c-suite position that focuses on the legal department but is also responsible for providing valid business solutions to arising problems. Legal analysis is expected, but the CLO also keeps the company’s business model and goals in mind.

The CLO is a multidimensional role that not only manages legal tact, but also aligns legal and business strategies, suggests innovative business solutions, mitigates risk, and ensures legal efficiency. Ultimately, a CLO stands apart from the GC role in that a CLO is often considered a strategic business partner.

A few of the CLO’s main job responsibilities are listed below.

Job Responsibilities of a CLO

  • Monitor legal changes that affect the company or the business’ industry
  • Develop curriculum to convey legal matters to employees
  • Oversees the hiring of internal and external legal teams
  • Mange compliance issues
  • Advise top executives on legal matters

Should you hire a CLO or GC?

Both positions will bring value to your company, but in different ways. A general counsel provides all of the legal advice and assistance you need. If you’re simply looking for some extra help managing your legal team and ensuring compliance is met in every possible way, then a GC is a great option.

However, if you’re interested in a more involved role for your company that can provide business value in addition to legal advice, then the chief legal officer is a better choice. The CLO role has actually been gaining a lot of momentum lately and has been listed as the sixth fastest-growing C-suite title of 2020 at 23 percent growth, according to Workforce Insights. The position growth trend is understandable because a CLO provides a lot of value to a business. With a CLO, you have an employee who is dedicated to furthering the business and improving the bottom line while at the same time they ensure compliance is met along the way.

What to look for in a Chief Legal Officer

When hiring a chief legal officer, you want to make sure you’re choosing someone who not only understands the legal aspects of your business, but who can also manage the more strategic aspects of running a company. With this in mind, below are a few important characteristics you should look for in a CLO.

  1. Strategic thinker

The CLO balances the legal aspects of the company while monitoring the repercussions and risks associated with new business moves. A CLO recognizes the legal risk of new ventures but can also place this decision in the bigger context of the business. Since a CLO understands the overall business goals and mission of the company, a CLO can view legal aspects of a business decision through the lens of running a successful business.

  1. Competent leader

The legal team is usually managed by the CLO so you need a competent leader who will inspire and motivate employees to do their best work. You also want a dynamic leader in this position because they’ll also be interacting with corporate leadership and outside clients on a regular basis. The person in charge of your legal team, therefore, needs to be able to lead people from all different backgrounds.

  1. Decisive

A decisive CLO is essential for successfully managing the legal aspects of your business. You don’t want someone in the role who will deliberate over decisions for weeks at a time. You want a confident CLO who can look at a legal query, efficiently analyze the benefits and risks, and then move forward with the process in a timely manner.

Hiring the right chief legal officer or general counsel

Recruiting executive-level in-house legal talent is a big move for your company, so make sure you do it right. Hire a team of experienced and knowledgeable executive recruiters to handle your legal recruiting.

The benefits of a legal recruiting firm

Your company likely takes months to find and hire a new employee. The processes of posting the job opening, sifting through applications, and setting up interviews is time consuming work but very important for your business. The truth is, however, even after all of this work the person you choose might not be the best fit for your company.

An experienced legal recruiting firm makes the whole hiring process easier. Recruiters take over the task of finding qualified candidates for the general counsel or chief legal officer role you need filled. Recruiters have an extensive network of qualified talent they can access for your needs and also understand how to find the best legal talent to fit your company. Contact Cowen Partners to find out more about legal recruiting today.

Do you want to explore in-house counsel options such as General Counsel or Chief Legal Officer? Contact Us

Finding Top In-House Legal Talent

Read more our other industry-leading resources to see why Cowen Partners is one of the nation’s top executive search firms in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Dallas, Los Angeles, and beyond:

 

Finding Top In-House Legal Talent

Capable in-house legal talent is a vital part of your company’s team, and finding top legal talent is necessary if you expect to compete in today’s economy. You cannot afford to make mistakes when locating the right candidate for Chief Legal Officer, Corporate Counsel, General Counsel, or other key legal positions.

Cities include; New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, and Phoenix.

As a leading executive search firm, Cowen Partners specializes in finding in-house counsel and legal officers that fit your needs. We know the legal recruiting process from all sides and have a proven track record of success. When you work with us, you can rest assured knowing we will find you exceptional talent with outstanding credentials. We evaluate everything from legal experience, executive leadership, and emotional intelligence to core competencies and culture fit. Our assessment of candidates is top-notch so we can find you the perfect fit for your company.

Legal Executive Search Firm

It can take your company months to fill in-house legal positions and even once the job is filled the candidate might not be a good fit. A general counsel or chief counsel role and other key law department positions need to be filled quickly with the right qualified professionals.

At Cowen Partners, we take a proactive approach and have a private network from which to pull qualified candidates to fill your needs. Our legal recruitment team can find you top talent with not only the right qualifications, but also someone who will connect with the company leadership and culture. We are incredibly timely, too. Our average time to fill is only 38 days compared to a 100-day industry average. By engaging us as your legal executive recruiting agency, you receive top talent for all your essential legal positions. We have experiencing placing executive legal talent in a wide variety of industries and will have no problem finding the right candidate for your company.

Effectively Recruit the General Counsel Your Company Needs

A general counsel or chief counsel role is expected to take on more responsibility than ever. Executive teams often rely on their general counsel to be a lead strategist within the company. The right general counsel for your organization will have a solid understanding of your business needs and stay on top of ever-evolving legal obligations. We understand that each general counsel position and role are different depending on the company’s needs. We will help you find a top candidate that has all of the qualifications and competencies necessary for the role. Our retained executive search consultants know how to recognize top legal talent from years of experience as well as the use of proven hiring strategies.

In today’s complex world, you can’t afford to hire the wrong person for your legal needs. Cowen Partners is an established legal executive search firm which is why companies trust us with their talent recruiting needs. We know how to find talent that will improve your business operations and be a successful fit for your team.

Do you want to explore in-house counsel options such as General Counsel or Chief Counsel? Contact Us

Finding Top In-House Legal Talent

Read more of our C-Suite resources to see why Cowen Partners is a leading retained executive search firm in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Dallas, Los Angeles, and beyond:

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