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How to Formulate a General Counsel (GC) Succession Plan

Posted on September 2023

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​Succession planning is paramount, especially for roles that pivot around legal oversight like the General Counsel (GC). A robust succession plan guarantees a seamless transition and consistent legal counsel for an organization. Here, Larson Maddox provides a practical guide on how to craft a GC succession plan:

  1. Understand the GCs Complex Role and Identify Successors:
    It's pivotal to recognize that the GC often wears multiple hats – from legal advisor to strategic ally for the CEO and board. With this understanding, zero in on potential internal candidates that not only possess the required legal expertise, but also showcase strategic acumen, leadership qualities, and a firm grasp of your organization's ethos.

  2. Empower Potential Successors with Training and Knowledge Transfer:
    Once potential successors emerge, arm them with specialized legal training, leadership modules, and cross-functional insights. Furthermore, ensure your current GC orchestrates regular knowledge-sharing sessions. These engagements will ensure your successor has a complete overview of the company's legal landscape, ongoing challenges, and projected obstacles.

  3. Review, Communicate, and Integrate Feedback:
    An ever-changing business ecosystem necessitates that succession plans are revisited and refreshed periodically. During this process, it is useful to gather feedback from a broad range of stakeholders – peers, juniors, and other organizational leaders – to ensure a well-rounded, up-to-date assessment of potential plans and successors. Keeping senior leadership and the board in the loop with any changes strengthens trust in the plans throughout the organization.

  4. Draft a Comprehensive Transition Blueprint:
    As the transition period approaches, develop a comprehensive handover roadmap. This should encapsulate timelines, the relay of critical responsibilities, ongoing project handovers, and a database of crucial internal and external contacts.

  5. Blend Internal Nurturing with External Vigilance:
    While internal promotions and movements are often preferred, be aware of the possibility that the perfect candidate might sometimes lie outside your organization. Maintain a current job specification for your GC role and be prepared to cast your net externally if needed. Post-transition, make it a mandate to routinely review your new GC's performance, ensuring alignment with role demands and organizational vision.

While internal development and succession undoubtedly have their merits, the advantages of external hiring for pivotal roles like the General Counsel cannot be overstated. By turning to the wider talent market, organizations can tap into fresh perspectives, previous experiences, and specialized expertise which might not be readily available in-house.

An external GC can offer an invaluable outsider's viewpoint, highlighting inefficiencies and proposing changes rooted in diverse experiences. Moreover, an unbiased approach, free from pre-existing organizational allegiances, can pave the way for objective and refreshed decision-making.

Given these advantages, if you're finding that the ideal GC candidate isn't emerging from within your ranks, exploring externally is not only a wise strategy, but it's also a proactive one. To streamline this process and ensure you're accessing the best talent pool, we urge clients to request a call back. Our team is well-equipped to assist you in navigating the complexities of external hiring and ensuring that you find the perfect match for your organization's needs. Remember, the right talent can be transformative – and we're here to help you discover it.

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