In Their Words: Career Advice from 9 Successful General Counsel

YourCareer-image-1024x768Throughout my tenure with Evers Legal, I have had the honor and privilege to chat with some of the most successful in-house lawyers in the business. In the past two years, I’ve interviewed a lawyer at the world’s largest retailer, two in the higher education field, and one from a well-known underwear brand, as well as several others from equally interesting industries.

Among this diverse group of professionals is years of exceptional legal and business experience. In every interview, I ask about the advice they would give a young lawyer hoping to be a general counsel someday. While several, consistent themes always rise to the surface, each one of these lawyers offers very personal and valuable advice from a unique perspective.

Here are some advice highlights from our 2015 and 2016 eNews GC profiles, when asked: What advice would you give a young lawyer who would like to be the GC of a company someday? More 

Karen Shaff is right at home as GC of Principal Financial

Shaff Picture April 2012 4x6Karen Shaff may not have known at an early age that she was destined to be a lawyer, but her family and friends did.

Shaff grew up in Clinton, Iowa, where she attended elementary and high school. Shaff decided to head to Northwestern University for her undergraduate degree and majored in political science.  “We used to travel to Chicago a lot when I was a kid, and I loved the city.  Being in the area along with being a top tier school, made Northwestern an easy choice,” she says of her decision to attend the prestigious Evanston, Ill.-based university.

But even by her senior year of college, Shaff was unsure what she wanted as a career, so she decided to take the LSAT. Possibly influenced by her lawyer father, she applied to and was accepted into Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Iowa. “At the time, I really hadn’t thought about going to law school,” she says. “But when I told my friends and family, they all just knew that would be my next step.” More 

How to ask CEO Santa for New Headcount

CultureFit-image1024x768Happy holidays! What would you like to see in your law department’s stocking this year? Have you asked CEO Santa for an increased budget in 2017? If so, my guess is that Santa wanted a whole lot of information to back-up the request.

Last month, I moderated a panel at In-house Innovates (formerly known as “Superconference”) titled “Allocating Law Department Resources.” One of my takeaways from our session, and the conference generally, is that in-house counsel are getting with the program when it comes to using data and performance metrics. Numbers speak much louder than words when making the case for additional resources.

But even if the metrics make sense, for example in projected savings versus outside counsel use, Santa may still get grumpy if you ask for additional headcount. That is a present wrapped in commitment, and batteries are definitely not included. And so metrics are just a starting point. More 

Volvo Financial Services (Greensboro, NC), relo paid

Update:  Closed

Our client Volvo Financial Services in Greensboro, North Carolina, seeks an attorney with 4+ years of experience for an equipment leasing and finance role.  Relocation package available.  Qualified candidates will have expertise in UCC Article 2A and Article 9 transactions.  Exposure to bankruptcy matters and litigation management helpful.  You will work with sales, operations, and credit functions in developing and implementing legal policies and documentation for commercial truck, tractor, trailer, construction equipment, bus and other specialized transportation and commercial equipment financing products in the United States.  Title: Senior Legal Counsel.

We welcome law firm associates with relevant experience seeking to make their first move in-house.  Of course, if you are in-house with a bank or captive finance company and seek the opportunity to live in beautiful Greensboro and work for a terrific legal team, we want your resume too.  Please email to

Full-time ongoing contracts position / Chicago

Update:  Filled (However, we always welcome candidates who fit the description below, as our Adjunct Counsel service employs contracts attorneys routinely.)

Law department of major company with office location near O’Hare.  We are paying $45 to $50 per hour for a junior level contracts role.  Full-time, ongoing.  Some exposure to bankruptcy helpful but not required.  Our client is financially healthy, but some of the contracts are impacted by corporate customer bankruptcies.  Please email resume to  Thank you.


Lead Counsel / pharma / Chicago

Update:  Filled.

We are conducting a search for a pharmaceutical client located in the northern suburbs of Chicago.  6+ years of experience, generalist role (i.e. supports commercial operations), but does require industry regulatory knowledge (FDA, Prescription Drug Marketing Act, Anti-kickback statutes, etc.).  Pharma industry experience required, will gladly consider candidates straight out of law firms as well as in-house counsel.  Please email resume to or call 312-225-1144.

ERISA Counsel, Principal Financial Group

Update:  Closed

Our client, Principal Financial Group, seeks two ERISA attorneys with 5+ years of experience.  Competitive compensation and relocation to the company’s HQ city of Des Moines, Iowa.  PFG is consistently voted one of the best companies to work for in America, and the attorneys we have placed with this client in the past rave about the opportunity.  Please send your resume to or call 312-225-1144.

Here is the job description:

Experienced attorney with five years or more practice predominantly with pension plan issues relating to pension plan operation, plan investment issues, fiduciary/transactional operations, and experience with current regulatory positions.  Applicant would work with experienced team providing advice on pension-related legal issues to a group of affiliated companies that provide plan services as well as manufacture plan investment options.  

Requires Juris Doctorate and 5 plus years’ experience practicing law predominantly with pension plans issues.
Requires knowledge of the relevant area of law and its application.


Going beyond the resume

Evers-Legal-Executive-Search-Culture-Fit-09-2016Pre-column note: Just at press time, we took an order from a great long-term client, Principal Financial Group.  Competitive compensation and relocation package for ERISA attorneys who will consider the Des Moines, Iowa location.  This is a terrific law department, everyone we have placed there loves it, and PFG is consistently voted one of the best companies to work for in the country.  So, please help me out by spreading the word on this one.  Thank you.  Now, to my column, please enjoy the read:

Our placements in 2016 have me thinking about the title of this column (“Culture Fit”), and fondly recalling a memorable line from Bob Major almost 20 years ago. Let me explain.

In 2015, a lot of my attention was focused on helping one particular client build out its new law department with some specialized and VP level hires. Even with the complication of some geographic relocations, those orders went smoothly. By contrast, our order flow this year is broader, and I am spending significant time on our adjunct counsel service line. More