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      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.

       

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