Land A General Counsel
The legal world is a sea of opportunities, and there are several career trajectories that a lawyer can choose from. Among them, the role of a general counsel is one of the most coveted ones.

Because of the limited roles and high pay associated with the position, in most companies, one can expect good competition for the role of a general counsel.

Merely showcasing your interest and projecting yourself in front of the management will not suffice. To survive the competition, you need all the essential skills that are necessary for this job.

Here are the top 5 skills you need to succeed as a general counsel.

1. Understanding Of The Business

Most lawyers are impressed by the lucrative general counsel salary and dream to make it to that position. If you want to give flight to your dreams, start with the basics and learn about the business.

From knowing the products or services on offer to understanding the customers and their expectations, you need to do a lot of homework.

Start by understanding the long-term strategic goals of the organization and how the business has its short-term goals in alignment with the long-term ones.

Knowing the current business objectives will help you evaluate the impact of the latest industry trends on your business. If you see yourself growing to become a general counsel, you need to develop an aptitude for business details.

Consciously tracking your company’s social media platforms, subscribing to relevant publications, and understanding the public sentiment around the business will help you get to the core of the business.

Professionals with a thorough understanding of the business model have a better chance of landing themselves in the role of general counsel.

2. Strategic Planning Abilities

As a general counsel, you need to think strategically and plan your work. For example, let us consider a situation wherein your government has just passed a new data privacy law.

The law is set to revolutionize the business you are associated with. Let us assume that the bill had been pending for a couple of years.

Being a strategic lawyer would mean following the bill through its legislative process and briefing the management on the latest progress every quarter.

That way, by the time the bill is passed, the business can arrange a cross-functional team and ensure smooth adoption.

It requires a natural aptitude for strategic planning coupled with the ability to gauge a problem from multiple vantage points to do justice to the post.

A strategic legal professional will have an edge when competing for the coveted position of a general counsel.

3. Dedication To Continuously Upskill Yourself

Whether you are looking for the role of legal counsel with your current employer or in some other company, you need to upskill yourself at the legal front.

Start by listing areas of legal studies that interest you and those that are important to an organization. Compare the lists to identify similarities in the two lists and work on the common subjects.

For example, you can consider penning articles on your subject of expertise and publish them in the state bar association’s magazine.

Opting for an industry-recognized certification on a subject you are already well-versed in is another smart decision. Taking up legal diplomas on emerging tends is another option to consider.

Understand that the people evaluating your competency for the general counsel position will be HR professionals with limited legal exposure.

Things that seem mundane to you will appear impressive to them and can secure your shot at the job.

4. Leveraging Your Non-Legal Aptitude

With a limited number of general counsel jobs and an increasing number of applicants, there is intense competition, and being legally competent will not suffice.

The management of most firms expects legal counsels to have decent financial acumen.

By understanding cash flow, balance sheets, and profit-loss statements, you will be better positioned to participate in legal budgeting and forecasting meetings with the management.

Sealing yourself in a bubble is no longer a comfort as the world transforms into a global village. A general council must be a global citizen with a sense of respect for other cultures and a willingness to try new things.

Being tech-savvy is an added advantage. You need to be self-aware and exert your influence in a way that helps get things moving.

If you are looking for this position, develop the attitude of spotting risks and nipping them in the bud before they become problems. 

5. Recognizing Power Dynamics

The legal department of any organization has its internal power dynamics, and if you want to make it, you need to have the skill of reading the room.

Make a conscious effort to be a good colleague and remain transparent in your work as a legal counsel. Also, identify peers who are likely to grow in the organization and build a good rapport with them.

Fostering good business relationships with people outside the legal department is just as important. Maintaining discretion and remaining neutral will help you establish your stand as a trusted advisor to the business.

Be vocal about your professional insights, as it is your thoughtful advice that will establish your legal competency in the organization. Once you have the necessary skills, make yourself visible on the radar of legal recruiters.

Come up with a stellar resume that illustrates your legal capabilities and have them know that you are keen on hearing from them if they have a career opportunity.

With the appropriate skillset and proper self-marketing, the sky is the limit for someone looking to build a career as a legal counsel.

Final Take

As a general counsel, you will be expected to make decisions where there is no right or wrong, and treading on the grey zone is the only option. Integrity and a sense of ethics will help you earn the trust of the management.

Knowing how to look at the bigger picture, thinking outside the box, and managing a crisis without panicking are other skills that management looks for in any legal counsel.

Above all, weighing multiple options in every situation and keeping calm in the eye of a storm is what it takes to be a successful general counsel.