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How To Build A Strong Bench Of Legal Talent



From my past experience of working with clients, it not only takes a great General Counsel to build a strong legal department, but a well-rounded bench of talent to support them. I had a client years ago that once told me, “I know I will have been a good general counsel and leader if every member of my team became the General Counsel of a company at some point in their career.” Finding the best talent for every aspect of the legal team is critical and requires a much more methodical and intentional approach than simply posting a job to LinkedIn.


How Do You Build A Strong Bench?


Succession planning is a great human capital strategy for developing internal legal talent, but when a new CEO steps into the C-Suite that plan can quickly become redundant. A new CEO may want to make changes across the executive leadership team and the General Counsel is no exception. As a result, it is important that the legal team be a strong bench of talent and thus able to support the success of a new General Counsel.


To start, consider moving high performers around within the legal department. This will help your team acquire different substantive skills and allow for their practice to grow and organizational knowledge to expand. In addition to learning new areas, these experiences will trigger a different way of thinking critically about the business and the legal strategy. Regardless of the changes made at the leadership level - legal departments will always need a team of raw talent with intellect, intuitive smarts, business acumen and the ability to stay laser focused.


Sometimes the CEO will look internally to appoint a new General Counsel, but more often than not, they will enlist the help of a trusted external advisor such as a search firm. The best course of action when looking for a search firm to appoint a new General Counsel or build a strong bench of legal talent, is to look for specialists or past partners with whom the company has worked. As a search consultant that specializes in placing talent within in-house legal departments, my experience conducting even just one search for an organization, has allowed me to understand the complexities of the organization such as:


  • Key chemistry, cultural fit and any compatibility issues.

  • The strategic direction of the role and how it will evolve in the future

  • The company’s overall culture as well as the focus and strategy of the company


As a trusted partner, we have found that In order to conduct searches to build the bench strength for our clients, it is critical to have the historical and legacy knowledge of the culture and chemistry in order to identify and recruit top talent.


To learn more about building a strong legal bench, please get in touch.

About Corinne Cochran.

Corinne Cochran began her career in executive search, specializing in the recruitment of senior lawyers for corporations and law firms. In 1994, she merged her firm with Bert Early Associates to form Early Cochran & Olson. After more than 30 years, Corinne remains passionate about the business and the clients she serves. Her extensive network, seasoned approach and well-honed intuition are proven to deliver top legal talent from Fortune 500 to privately-held clients. Corinne received her bachelor’s degree in English from The Principia College and has been a long-time volunteer and leader in a variety of community and civic activities.

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