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Leigh Dance has written, published and spoken extensively on many aspects of global legal services, at major global conferences and in business and legal industry publications worldwide, including The Wall Street Journal.  Click here for our extensive archive of past (we believe still insightful!) published articles.

Dance is author of Bright Ideas:  Insights from Legal Luminaries Worldwide, published by Mill City Press and available on Amazon.  Bright Ideas is a compilation of 23 original essays by leaders and influencers around the world.

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Develop Yourself: 18 Competencies for Global General Counsel

After two years gathering input from General Counsel, exec recruiters and those hiring corporate legal and compliance chiefs, I decided to share the list of competencies more broadely.   This post draws from my more detailed article published 16 Feb in ALM’s Corporate Counsel online and from my chapter in the General Counsel in the 20th Century book (published by the IBA and Global Law and Business). Expectations of today’s general counsel have expanded and elevated the job. Broad legal knowledge is assumed-- it’s far from enough to succeed as a corporate legal executive in 2017.

Two key competencies that were raised in interviews for Global Counsel Leaders Circle 2017 Benchmark (a biannual peer benchmark study) were not mentioned by any respondents in the 2015 benchmark. They are: leadership and tech-savvy.

New General Counsel Competencies: A List with Examples

Here’s a list of key competencies required of the global corporate general counsel today. Listed in alphabetical order, not all competencies are necessary all the time, but most are needed sooner or later.

  • Advocacy aptitude and experience
  • Business acumen
  • Calm temperament
  • Communication skills
  • Corporate governance understanding
  • Crisis management ability
  • Decision-making skills
  • Foresight and identification of trends
  • Independence
  • Integrity and good ethics
  • Judgement
  • Leadership competency
  • Legal know-how
  • Media awareness
  • Negotiation skills
  • Problem-solving ability
  • Time management skills
  • Management skills (including ability to involve and coordinate internal and external resources, as well as delegate and supervise)

Short descriptions of each competency can be tailored to each legal/compliance function’s overall strategy, and the key risks of concern to their organization. A few examples follow:

Advocacy aptitude and experience

Advocacy requires presence and oratory skills, negotiating skills, a good understanding of laws, regulations and enforcement practices, as well as understanding of how regulatory officials work.

Business acumen

Each corporate legal function will have varying definitions of expectations for business acumen based on the corporate culture, history and regulatory situation. A thorough understanding of the business and its structure is important, and the ability to demonstrate that understanding to improve relationships within the organization.

Crisis management ability

A general counsel cannot perform her job without possessing an ability to reduce and avoid various potential crises. A general counsel needs to be able to lead and collaborate to help contain, resolve and address the many issues that may arise in a crisis.

Foresight and identification of trends

A global chief compliance officer described this competency as the ability to follow political, social and economic developments, anticipate which developments could have an operational or financial impact on your business, and take preparatory steps.”

Legal know-how

It’s important to clarify what legal know-how and skills are required for various in-house roles. Required skills change as organizations, products and services evolve—in-house counsel must be versatile.

Management skills

Management skills required include the ability to involve and coordinate internal and external resources, as well as delegate and supervise.

Media awareness

Social and digital media, increased transparency and new distribution channels for information combine to make media awareness an important competence for today’s general counsel.

Click here for the original piece published 16 Feb in ALM’s Corporate Counsel online.