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How To Recruit and Build A Strong Legal Team

When hiring and appointing a new General Counsel - it will take the first few months for them to settle into the responsibility of their new role, team and culture. As a new senior leader takes charge at the C-Suite level, quite often management changes result at the lower tiers of senior leadership as well. Here are a few things to consider when rebuilding or rethinking your in-house counsel and legal department amidst a leadership change.

Start With Assessing Your Legal Talent

A good leader knows how to lead, while a great leader can motivate, inspire and develop their team. By assessing internal team members and the role they play, you can better understand how to manage, support and motivate them by discovering:

  1. Work Load and Styles

  2. Skills or Knowledge Gaps

  3. Overlaps In Performance or Redundancies

  4. Preferred Communication And Feedback Delivery

  5. Key Motivators and Drivers

When building out a new team, conducting this initial assessment of your internal talent is critical because you may uncover an untapped skillset, identify new pathways for succession and pinpoint individuals that need to be upskilled, mentored or moved to another team. Conducting this initial talent audit allows for you to fill in any leadership or skills gaps by leveraging your greatest asset, your people.

Build A Legal Team To Evolve With The Business

As industries and sectors continue to rapidly evolve, so do legal departments and teams. The General Counsel will need to strategically partner with business leaders across the organization to understand strategic direction for products, growth and services and identify any future legal risk. For example, some areas of law such as data privacy, cyber security and environmental law will continue to grow in both priority and significance and demand more support. As organizations become more agile, adaptable and innovative, legal teams will need to evolve and include experts that are well versed in more complex emerging areas of law.

Hiring For Fit

Good leaders recruit to replace, but great leaders recruit to retain. Sometimes the process, reporting, and skills around a role will change over time and require a fresh perspective and structure. Prior to beginning the recruitment process, look for opportunities to reinvent a role or structure to present new challenges that will excite potential legal candidates. It's especially important to look into the key reasons why a lawyer is considering leaving their current job for a new opportunity. Culture is a huge reason why many lawyers decide to leave or stay with an organization. Carefully assess these motivators and cultural differences and compare them to your own company and trajectory of the role. Take an honest look at what your opportunity is offering in terms of compensation, growth and culture and whether it fits what a candidate is looking for. If not, you may have to keep searching.

Invest In And Promote Work-Life Balance

Retaining legal talent (both new and existing), is critical in today’s hiring climate. Lawyers and legal teams are high-performers and an organization cannot afford to lose this talent or legacy knowledge. While compensation, development and recognition are important for retaining top performers, work-life balance has become a highly valued benefit. The pandemic thrust balance and wellness into the spotlight, and organizations will need to continue prioritizing and championing mental health, work-life balance and the ability to disconnect from work - especially for legal talent. Set up programs or partner with organizations that advocate for mental health for high-performers, and offer these as resources to your existing and future employees. For some lawyers considering a career change, this particular benefit can influence their decision to join your team or withdraw from the recruitment process.

About Corinne Cochran.

Corinne Cochran began her career in executive search in 1983, 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 people. 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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