The first substantive post I wrote for this blog in November 2014 was titled “How to be a Successful In-House Lawyer.” Over the past 12 months I have heard from a number of you with a slightly different question: how do you become general counsel? In particular, what skills should someone develop if they have their eyes on the big chair? As we come to the end of 2015, I thought this would be an excellent topic to write about. If you already are general counsel, congratulations! Hopefully the points in this post ring true to you. If you aspire to become general counsel (or are looking for an upgrade), now is the perfect time to start thinking about your game plan for 2016 and beyond both in terms of developing needed skills and ensuring you are on the “radar” of the right people. If you are outside counsel, you can use these points to help your inside client attain their goals.
I was fortunate enough to have been the general counsel of two companies. While each company required different skills for both the legal department generally and for the general counsel seat specifically, there was also a lot of overlap. I suspect the overlapping parts I experienced are the same for most companies. I also believe that the core skills needed for the position – including operational and strategic excellence – are the same here in the U.S. and across the globe. This edition of “Ten Things” will set out some of the things you will need to think about, know, or master on your path to becoming general counsel: