What Does It Mean To Be Company General Counsel

Being a Part Time CFO for several companies I am always asked what it means to be a General Counsel.  Here is a great article by Jeff Paulsen of Paulsen Law Firm PLLC that will answer all of your questions.

Definition of General Counsel

// // A General Counsel is the senior attorney of a legal department within a company. The professional brings years of high quality legal experience and knowledge to the position and oversees a number of other lawyers or other non-lawyer personnel who are responsible for providing legal advice and counsel for specific areas of business. In a corporation setting, the general counsel typically reports to the chief executive officer.

The General Counsel’s Responsibilities

The primary role of a General Counsel is to ensure that the company is operating legally at all times. The General Counsel typically serves as one of the senior business leaders of the company and is involved with setting the strategy and implementing strategic goals from a legal perspective.  A General Counsel is not only expected to render legal advice personally and through staff or outside legal experts, but the individual is expected to understand the business implications of any legal action or inaction. General Counsel should be aware of all transactions of the company from the beginning as this will limit the company’s legal risk. General Counsel must identify issues that could cause harm to the company.

Acting as a Business Partner

A General Counsel is usually seen as a business partner and often has additional job responsibilities in overseeing functions within the company. These functions may include insurance and risk management, ethics and business compliance, real estate, human resources, intellectual property and various other functions requiring legal management oversight based upon the company structure and the background and experience of the specific General Counsel.

Leadership and Management Requirements

A General Counsel must be able to lead a legal function and manage people and processes.  Having an understanding of how businesses operate and being able to cooperate with different personalities is essential to the teamwork approach of most businesses.  These requirements include having sound judgment and life experiences that provide business personnel with confidence in the General Counsel’s advice and counsel.

Educational Requirements

 A General Counsel must have a Juris Doctor degree and must have passed at least one state’s bar exam. In addition, a General Counsel typically has an undergraduate business degree and several years of professional legal experience in a company or business environment.

Personality Requirements

 A General Counsel must have the highest integrity and must be trustworthy. As there will be some business conflicts with senior managers, a strong personality and the ability to be persuasive and relentless in advocating the best interests of the company is essential. The General Counsel needs to be an effective communicator, whether discussing issues with senior business personnel, legal staff, outside counsel or others as a representative of the senior business team.

General Counsel Profile

Trusted legal advisor that looks out for the company’s interests as their foremost responsibility;

  1. Experienced at providing high quality legal advice and counseling;
  2. Business savvy and experienced at working on various business transactions and issues;
  3. Leadership and management traits that are adaptable to business needs and business cultures; and
  4. Teamwork minded with an ability to advocate for courses of action that best protect the company.

 Paulsen Law Firm PLLC – “Formed with clients in mind………”

For more information, please contant Jeff Paulsen at Paulsen Law Firm PLLC, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 48301. 248-456-0646. www.paulsenlawfirm.com

photo credit: Business man hand via photopin (license)

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