Technical expertise, business savvy and the kind of composure that not even a congressional hearing can shake — these are some of the essential characteristics that Google and Facebook should keep in mind as they look to fill two of the highest-profile general counsel positions on the planet.
Facebook Inc. general counsel Colin Stretch in July announced his plans to leave the social media giant at the end of the year, as the platform continues to be embroiled in a slew of scandals including investigations into its data privacy practices and efforts to combat misinformation. Also last month, Google Inc. promoted general counsel Kent Walker to senior vice president of global affairs, as the tech company reels from a record multibillion-dollar fine from European Union regulators alleging that it abused the dominance of its Android mobile phone operating system.
Company size and industry help shape what executives want in a new general counsel, and Google and Facebook pose unique challenges when it comes to finding the right attorney for the job. But experts say several key characteristics define winning candidates, no matter the business, aside from possessing substantive legal knowledge.
“The word general in general counsel is really, really important to highlight. They’re corporate generalists. They’re not just trained in one thing. They know a lot about everything,” said Heather Fine, a partner at Major Lindsey & Africa’s in-house practice group.
Fine added that a general counsel needs to know how to manage, but also simultaneously act as a leader who inspires and motivates other lawyers in the department.