Congratulations are in order on new general counsel roles for six of the 20 lawyers we have profiled in previous issues of eNews. Cornell Boggs (previously with Dow Corning) is now leading the law department at Toys R Us, Chris Carsen (previously with Mattersight) has landed the top spot at Corel Corp., Joe Perkins (previously with Cummins) is running the show at NIBCO, and E.M. Lysonge (previously with Churchill Downs) is now sitting in the big chair at CafePress Inc.
On the promotion front, Curt Kramer steps up to become the General Counsel of Navistar International on April 1 when Steve Covey retires. And Bill Caruso has been promoted to Acting General Counsel for DeVry.
For Curt, Joe and E.M, this is their first general counsel position. I am so very happy to see their hard work pay off. For Bill, hopefully the interim title will turn permanent as it did for Doug Beck, who took a similar path via promotion at Hub Group. All in all, the individuals profiled in our Counsel Q&A’s are doing just fine!
I also want to send “shout outs” to friends of our firm who have kindly sent business our way in the past and who now hold exciting new leadership roles. Jim Rogers (previously with Orbitz) is now in the driver’s seat at Cars.com, Bill P’Pool (previously with Mead Johnson) runs the show at Prestige Brands, and Michael Mullican (previously with Meijer) is the general counsel of Academy Sports & Outdoors.
I congratulate all of our readers who have made a move or enjoyed a recent promotion. We do our best to follow your careers via LinkedIn and other tools, but I confess that we drop the ball on occasion when it comes to staying current with everyone. So please, please send us updated contact information.
By the numbers: GCs on the move
Our business is all about facilitating growth or change when companies choose us to provide talent. Surveys are surprisingly insufficient when it comes to studying the evolution of general counsel movement, so here are three key observations based simply on our experience, my conversations with other recruiters and monitoring the “Moves” sections within the legal trade press:
- The typical tenure in a general counsel position is getting shorter and shorter. Sure, many GCs stay for 10+ years. And other companies seem to churn through GCs every couple of years. But I would say four to five years is a very common stay in the big chair now.
- When there is a general counsel opening, the split between internal promotion and external hiring to fill the position is about 50/50.
- When the hire is external, I ballpark the winners as 70 percent lawyers with GC experience, 20 percent senior in-house counsel, and 10 percent straight from a law firm. Twenty years ago, GC hires were made with frequency directly from firms.
GC fast-track: quality of employer trumps speed to the title
While this suggests an urgency to get to a general counsel title as fast as possible, I nonetheless caution against this approach. Yes, once you are the GC of a Fortune 500 company, you are pretty much golden as they say. But larger companies are not favoring solo in-house counsel who bear the GC title without the brand name cache or managerial experience. Your chances are better coming from the lieutenant level ranks of a substantial law department.
I clearly touched a nerve when writing about this last month for Inside Counsel. Beware of the General Counsel Title has been the most widely read and re-circulated career advice column in the nine years I have been writing it monthly for IC. Based on the reaction to that column, I sense a demand for more in-depth study and reporting on career path dynamics among in-house counsel.
Perhaps the secret to success is getting profiled in our Counsel Q&A! That is a “just kidding” sentence, of course. But there is a point to be made, too. I find that top in-house lawyers who surface in new GC roles are quite often those who embrace public exposure in the business press, trade press and at conferences.
In my next columns, both here and at Inside Counsel, I will identify additional patterns that I see emerging in in-house counsel movement. Please let me know if these observations are consistent with, or counter to, your own experience. I think this can become an interesting and helpful discussion.