The Chief Legal Officer (CLO) is the head of the corporate legal department and is responsible for the legal affairs of the entire corporation. This role involves providing legal counsel to the board of directors, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and other senior management. CLOs must possess strong initiative, as well as excellent management and leadership skills, and strong business acumen. A Juris Doctor (JD) and an applicable state license to practice law are required. The level of experience required for the position may vary, depending on company size.
CLOs are generally responsible for duties that include (and are not limited to):
Screen candidates for these skills and this knowledge to make sure they are truly qualified to hold the role of chief legal officer:
Candidates for the chief legal officer role should have, at minimum, the following degrees and credentials.
Cowen Partners is a leader among the nation’s best executive search firms for legal executives, enabling companies to harness the power of human capital to fuel their success. With top-rated CLO recruiters, Cowen Partners gives our clients access to the top 1% of human capital to create opportunities that accelerate their growth and market share. With Cowen Partners, clients can grow at scale, create value, and drive results with world-class talent.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you want to learn more about our executive search services, check out our industry-leading resources and see why Cowen Partners is a 5-star retained executive search firm serving clients in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Dallas, Portland, Los Angeles, and beyond:
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