What Does a General Counsel Do?

What Does a General Counsel Do?

The General Counsel (GC), sometimes known as the Chief Counsel or Legal Director, is the chief legal officer of a company. They serve as the principal legal advisor to the board and shareholders, safeguarding the company from legal risks and ensuring compliance with laws and regulations.

Responsibilities of a General Counsel

A General Counsel’s role has evolved from purely legal functions to a blend of business and strategic responsibilities. They are now integral members of senior management, contributing to key corporate decisions. Their responsibilities often include:

  • Legal Advisory: Offering legal advice on various business operations, ensuring legally sound decisions.
  • Compliance Oversight: Ensuring the company adheres to all applicable laws and regulations, which includes staying updated on regulatory changes.
  • Risk Management: Identifying and mitigating legal risks associated with the company’s operations.
  • Contract Management: Overseeing the drafting, review, and negotiation of contracts with third parties.
  • Litigation Management: Handling any legal disputes or litigation involving the company.
  • Corporate Governance: Advising the board of directors on governance matters, ensuring best practices are followed.
  • Strategic Planning: Participating in strategic business planning, providing insights from a legal perspective.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Ensuring compliance with industry-specific regulations, which may vary significantly across sectors.

Daily Activities

A typical day for a General Counsel involves:

  • Reviewing regulatory updates and industry-specific legal developments.
  • Meeting with various department heads to discuss ongoing legal issues and provide guidance.
  • Overseeing the work of the legal team, including in-house counsel and external legal advisors.
  • Engaging with the CEO and other executives to align legal strategies with business goals.
  • Managing board relations and ensuring clear communication on legal matters.

Key Skills and Qualifications

A General Counsel needs a blend of legal expertise and business acumen to be effective. Quite often they are from a corporate law background, but can equally have specialised in regulatory or employment – the choice of which often depends on the organisations’ specific risks and oversight. Key skills include:

  • Legal Knowledge: A strong foundation from one of various fields of law, such as corporate, intellectual property, labour, and tax law.
  • Communication: Excellent verbal and written communication skills to convey complex legal concepts clearly.
  • Leadership: Ability to lead the legal team and collaborate with senior management.
  • Strategic Thinking: Capable of aligning legal strategies with business objectives.
  • Problem-Solving: Adept at resolving legal issues efficiently and effectively.

General Counsels typically hold a law degree and have the relevant practice certification in their jurisdiction. Some also pursue additional qualifications, such as an MBA, to enhance their business understanding.

Looking For More?

The role of a General Counsel is multifaceted and integral to the smooth operation and strategic success of a company. Their expertise protects the company from legal pitfalls and drives business growth by ensuring all activities are compliant and risk-managed.

If you are looking to hire a general counsel or other senior role, our executive search team at CJPI is always happy to provide no-obligation guidance and support.

CJPI Insights
CJPI Insights
CJPI Insights Editor

This post has been published by the CJPI Insights Editorial Team, compiling the best insights and research from our experts.

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