Good news for general counsel and corporate legal officers—top in-house legal leaders are now executive officers at many of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies.
Silicon Valley’s demand for involved, business-savvy GCs is on the rise, with a growth rate faster than nationwide S&P 100 counterparts. While S&P companies tend to be in more established industries, tech companies are often entering uncharted—and less regulated—industries. Experts say this means that the legal function, and its leaders, are ever more important and are getting elevated to executive status.
“Companies are increasingly asking us to find problem-solvers, creative business-minded thinkers, not just people who are very good at saying no,” said Carol Simon, the managing director for legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa. “The descriptions that come up are for someone participating in business decisions, [being a] strategic adviser, right-hand person, adviser, consigliere.”
And those are positions that lawyers in Silicon Valley are more eager to fill, Simon says. Potential recruits she’s spoken to are looking for a role in which they’re treated as an equal, and as an important part of the company. In-house counsel in Silicon Valley, she noted, are looking to be business partners, not people relegated to an office and only called on to say “no” to things.
Instead, she says, candidates and clients want in-house lawyers in tech to figure out how to turn that legal department “no” into a “yes” via new, creative ways of doing business.
“Attorneys are being specific in saying they’re not interested in a GC role unless it’s at a company where they have a seat at the table,” Simon said. “People want to be part of an operation that’s highly regarded, to be among the executive team, and to be a part of the decision-making for the entire entity.”