The role of general counsel is a coveted position for which many lawyers strive.. But the path to the GC seat varies greatly. While some highly successful general counsel cut their teeth in big law firms, others landed junior level in-house positions straight out of law school—and there are many other paths as well.
While there is no clear, defined career path to follow that will ensure lawyers with their sights on the top legal seat of a big company lands it, there are steps they can take and skill sets they can gain that will set them up for success.
Each year, we interview successful senior in-house counsel about their lives and careers, and we ask them what advice they would give a young lawyer who would like to become a GC someday. Last year, our GCs offered such great insights as develop emotional intelligence, do the work you love, and simply listen. Here’s a roundup of the suggestions our 2017 GC profile participants had for aspiring senior in-house counsel: More
We’d like to thank Brad Blickstein, principal at the Blickstein Group, for serving as this issue’s Your Career guest columnist.
Are you looking for a new challenge? Are you process- and budget-oriented? Do you love finding new ways to get things done? Then maybe YOU are a candidate for the exciting and fast-growing field of Legal Operations! In 2008, when legendary law department operations professional David Cambria and I launched the first-ever Law Department Operations Survey, we weren’t exactly whistling into the wind. Just almost. We did have 33 responses and eight companies had enough vision to sponsor the survey—including Consilio (then Huron Legal), which has been our great partner ever since. But not too many really understood what we were talking about. While a few departments had seen the light and hired professional managers (note the 33 respondents), practicing lawyers still ran the law departments.
The professional role has evolved considerably. All the major legal magazines now cover legal operations on a regular basis. The Association of Corporate Counsel has a Legal Operations organization and the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium put on a conference with more than 900 attendees this year. And 124 companies responded to our survey in 2016. There are now thousands of legal operations professionals nationwide. It is not only a viable career path, but also perhaps the best career path for many. More
Preparing to become a General Counsel, corporate politics, asking for a raise, networking… we have covered a range of topics in our monthly career advice column for Inside Counsel.
Please scroll through for topics that might be relevant for you. But also: we welcome suggestions! What is keeping you up at night? What information would be most helpful? Please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas and requests. Thank you.
I am very pleased to relay a nice outcome that originated with our Adjunct Counsel service offering. Greg Lacey was on assignment through our firm with client Adtalem (the leader in for-profit education services). Greg is a former Partner with Dykema Gossett; he is a stellar employment attorney and litigator. Towards the end of Greg’s assignment, he interviewed for a direct hire position with Adtalem and was recently hired. Congratulations Greg!
While we are always careful to never promise direct hire employment as a possible outcome when an attorney works on-site as one of our Adjunct Counsel… “conversions” to direct hire are indeed win-win outcomes for all involved when they occur. That’s why we endeavor to provide permanent placement caliber attorneys for all of our Adjunct Counsel assignments.
Thank you, Greg. Thank you, Adtalem. Mike Evers
Landing an in-house job interview can be a great feeling—especially if the position is with a law department you find especially exciting or is the ideal next step in your career path. But nailing an interview is more than just showing up, answering some questions and waiting for the phone to ring. Approaching the interview strategically can be the difference between accepting an offer or continuing your search.
Savvy job-seekers follow these guidelines when heading out for an interview:
1. Treat it like it’s a competition, because it is.
When it comes to landing a coveted in-house spot, there’s no prize for second place. It’s helpful to approach the entire interviewing process as a competitive game you’re playing against other skilled candidates. Take it seriously, and put your best foot forward. More
Conferences are an important part of any lawyer’s career path. As we’ve written before, they not only provide you with opportunities to continue your legal education and get ideas from other (sometimes more seasoned) attorneys in the profession, but they also offer networking opportunities—which can have a huge impact on career advancement.
For this column, we pulled together some upcoming 2017 conferences that may peek your interest. Have a look and click the link to learn more about each of these worthwhile events.
Curt Kramer has been named Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Navistar International (NYSE: NAV), effective April 1 upon the retirement of Steve Covey. Steve spent 36 years with Navistar, including the last 13 as General Counsel. I thank Steve for making Navistar one of our first Fortune 500 clients almost 20 years ago. We had the privilege of handling the search that resulted in Curt’s placement at Navistar in 2002.
Curt started at Navistar with the title Senior Attorney, and he has successfully climbed every step up the law department ladder. It was an ascent that, by my count, included at least four title changes (most recently Associate GC and Corporate Secretary).
In our upcoming March 18 issue of “Evers eNews,” my Culture Fit column title is “Musical Chairs” and I talk about the frequency with which GC’s tend to move around these days. Steve Covey and Curt Kramer are proof that doing great work, building relationships, treating your team members well, navigating corporate changes, and always showing loyalty… remains a formula that works too. Congratulations Curt! I am very happy for you, and I appreciate your support over the years. Curt participated on a panel I put together for the In-house Innovates conference a few months ago. I am not supposed to play favorites, but you are indeed at the top of my list… I am grateful that our paths crossed early in our respective careers.
A quick thank you as well to Bob Perna. Bob was the General Attorney (really an Assistant GC title for Navistar) who hired Curt in 2002. Although Steve kindly gave our firm the thumbs up to engage with Navistar, I worked most closely with Bob on that search, and he was very generous in his support of our efforts. Bob has been a General Counsel for several years now and currently sits in the big chair for Rockwell Collins.
Throughout 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
The law school reunion. Depending on the type of person you are, you either look forward to it or feel disinterested at the idea of going. Law school reunions can be fun or uncomfortable, a waste of time or invaluably productive. It’s all about your attitude and how well you prepare for what can be a great opportunity for improving your career.
The reality is, law school reunions can be goldmines for making new and important career-advancing connections. Many of those classmates you’ve lost touch with may be the perfect people with whom to network. A few may be in leadership roles looking to fill positions that are essentially your dream job. Or others may be working in your dream job and can offer valuable insights on how to make the right moves to get there. Or still, maybe you’re that ideal connection for someone else, and you can serve as an excellent gateway for another classmate who’s looking to make a job move. More