A General Counsel is the chief attorney of a legal department within the government or corporate office. He/she manages other lawyers within the corporation and correlates with other general counsels who are accountable in giving legal counsel in certain areas of business. Usually the general counsel presents different legal options to the chief executive officer or board of directors.
The general counsel’s main role is to guarantee that the company is working in compliance with the law in every way. He/she must be able to recognize the onset of problem on its preliminary stage and doing all legal actions to prevent the company’s profile and its employee’s reputation on risk of exposure to the public, thus ruining their image and affecting the business. Her life experiences and sound judgment are most likely the basis of her decision makings as she gets to know the next potential senior leaders with her interviews. She is also considered as a business partner that oversees the corporation’s audit and compliance role.
Education and Training Requirements
A general counsel must have a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree, passed the state’s bar exam, 5 to 10 years of experience in a private law firm, legal experience in a business environment or an additional business degree. Being an associate or partner in a major law firm and having experience in litigation and employment law are also required. A general counsel must develop a good business sense, a clear and comprehensive understanding of legal matters such as finance, property, employment; corporate governance and commercial matters like compliance, contracts and employment and intellectual property; and be able to manage disposals, mergers and acquisitions properly.
Knowledge and Skills Requirements
A general counsel must possess an immense veracity, extensive understanding on wide range of legal issues and business experience. A strong personality, persuasiveness and persistency in reinforcing what’s best for the company, leadership with management skills and an effective communicator is needed to be a successful general counsel., in short he/she should be the “jack of all trades”.
The General Counsel is often confined in their own offices with a secretary and legal research assistants working in long hours. For some who are working for corporations with branches may be required to travel to their sites to scrutinize legal problems.
The salary of a general counsel may vary according to company, industry and location, but usually ranges from $200,000 to $500,000 annually, with bonuses and equity-based compensation such as stock options and grants that could extend the compensation to a much higher value and increase the total earnings to well up to a million.