In years past, a company’s general counsel was often looked upon as the gatekeeper whose favorite word is “no” and as someone who stifles innovative business measures because of a fear of risk.
However, the thought that lawyers block innovation has changed and many companies are now putting in-house counsel in a position to be even more involved with the business than they have been before.
“I think the stereotype is breaking,” says Mike Evers, the founder of Evers Legal in Chicago. “Too risk-averse, too cautious and too conservative. The negative stereotypes appear to be diminishing. In-house counsel are doing a better job of presenting as businesspeople who happen to have law degrees.”
The number of general counsel and chief legal officers being put on a track to become a CEO or another member of the C-suite is growing. Michael Sachs, a partner at the recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, says about 30% of requests for general counsel or chief legal officer candidates mention the candidate could be considered for the C-suite someday.