Talent In The General Counsel Office

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March 10, 2016
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Talent In The General Counsel Office

The legal department has become a stronger player within the business over time. This change can be seen through a bigger budget, a stronger advisory role in other parts of the business, and the increased appreciation of its opinions in the broader management of the company. These changes create a problem for many legal departments, which is the need for a broader skill set among its staff. Indeed, over a quarter of chief legal officers in Consero’s Healthcare General Counsel Survey identified talent development and retention as their top priority for the next 12 months.

This talent gap can cause a domino effect inside and outside of the legal team. A strong pool of talent can counter this concern, but it needs to be developed. General Counsel need to argue why the right talent costs more. Specifically, these executives ought to show the marginal return of each additional employee and use success stories to demonstrate the positive impact of talent investments. Moreover, in-house leaders also need to take an active role in grooming their talent.

Approaches To Securing The Hire

Getting the support to hire additional employees may seem like a challenging task for a department with a budget that is already thinly spread. When trying to justify a new hire, work with the powers that be and speak in financial terms. Specify the particular role of the potential hire, and show the expected marginal return in dollars. For example, if you are trying to hire someone who can enhance productivity of outside counsel, detail the anticipated financial benefit of their abilities. Doing so can help solidify support for that new hire.

Show the expected marginal return in dollar terms.

As you try to gather additional support, it may be wise to search outside of the company for salary and other compensation data for employees like the one you are considering. Showing that your proposed hire is a bargain better ensures the chances for a new hire. It also proves your focus on the bottom line. In building support for a new hire, do not hesitate to detail the successes of previous hires in your operation or other areas of the business. Highlighting examples in which a risky hire provided substantial dividends may be your best ally in advocating for new staff. Nothing builds confidence in the recruitment context like proof that a particular hiring plan has worked before.

Harnessing The Talent Long-Term

If the legal officer is successful in finding new talent, the next most important step is taking a long-term interest in maintaining the talent. Critical to this goal is developing the talent by becoming a team “coach.” A good coach needs to come up with specific goals with each hire, accounting for strengths, weaknesses, and how the hire wishes to grow in the company. Be sure to take this coaching beyond a purely professional approach. Show empathy for personal lives. Demonstrating interest in the development and well-being of the new hire can increase productivity. Being sympathetic and flexible with personal issues will create a strong culture in the legal department, compelling hires to stay and develop their talents.

Being sympathetic and flexible with personal issues will create a strong culture in the legal department, compelling hires to stay and develop their talents.


In the end, investing in a legal team is an important step in helping take a sophisticated business to the next level. Effective General Counsel recognize the importance of hiring a capable team. And if these legal executives can ensure team longevity, then their department is more likely to thrive.