CORPORATE COUNSEL: Do you think maybe, because there's more legal work staying in-house, that's driving the need for a business-oriented GC?
LEE UDELSMAN: The expectation is that the general counsel is going to be almost like a business partner, is going to be instrumental, not just in the execution of the legal strategy but also in the formulation of the business strategy.
So, correspondingly, the expectation is that the GC will manage her or his budget almost like a P&L, if you will. And part of that now is, what we've seen is a number of law departments are hiring legal operations managers to administer the budget. So therefore, the general counsel can really concentrate on what I call sort of the higher-value targets, formulating and executing the strategy along with the other people on the leadership team to drive the company's initiatives.
CC: What other trends are going on out there in the world of legal departments?
LU: What I’ve been able to identify is a demand to fill roles relating to privacy, marketing-including digital marketing-which makes a lot sense, given the world in which we live, roles relating to import and export controls, again, which makes a lot of sense in the dangerous world in which we live, compliance and also cyber-security. At some point this year, it seemed like every other week, another company was announcing a data breach. So not surprising is that there's an increase in hiring relating to cyber security-type roles.
CC: Are those areas a focus mostly for lower level ¡n-house lawyers, or are companies looking for GCs with expertise in the areas you mentioned?
LU: Yeah, I mean frankly, these are areas of what are called functional subject matter expertise. So, it's not necessary that the GC be a subject matter expert relating to this but have some knowledge. And typically these would be people on the GC staff in a larger company who would have these responsibilities.
CC: Do you see more companies hiring a general counsel and building a legal department who would not have otherwise had one?
LU: Some of it varies by industry and how heavily regulated the company is within that particular industry but what happens is a company typically reaches a level of critical mass, and part of that goes back to spend. And so somebody within the company, perhaps the CFO, is looking at what legal fees are as a result of external spend and then makes a determination that coupled with the fact that, you know we're at a critical juncture in our business evolution or contemplating the filing of initial public offering. We've got a very significant piece of litigation in which we are a party. We’ve got a number of patents, if you will, that are about to be filed or they are about to expire that are mission critical. These are very significant events in the lifecycle of a company that typically compel the conclusion: You know what? We need to hire a general counsel.
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Lee Udelsman is the Managing Partner of our New Jersey office, formerly was Managing Partner of our New York office, and is a leader in the firm's In-House Practice Group where he focuses on recruitment and retention for in-house legal departments across the U.S. and internationally. Since joining the firm in 2005, Lee has consulted and partnered successfully with hundreds of companies on matters ranging from legal department metrics, including spend, compensation benchmarking and use of alternative legal resources, to building high performance legal teams to support the business objectives of those companies. Lee also is a member of the firm's Life Sciences and Healthcare segment team, helping all types of healthcare organizations recruit talent.