Recently we’ve talked extensively about the shifting role of the General Counsel and their growing importance in leadership teams, and despite the lack of a clear lockstep career ladder it seems more lawyers are making their way to the top of US companies through the legal team.
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General Counsel take the lead

Posted by: Laurence Simons 30/09/16
Recently we’ve talked extensively about the shifting role of the General Counsel and their growing importance in leadership teams, and despite the lack of a clear lockstep career ladder it seems more lawyers are making their way to the top of US companies through the legal team.

Though many critics question whether the nature of the compliance role conflicts with that of a strategic advisor, given that they report directly to the CEO, more business leaders are coming to realise the benefits of giving a GC a position on their boards. This is certainly the case with American Apparel, a leading clothing outlet that has encountered more than a few struggles in recent years and where current General Counsel and Former Loeb & Loeb partner Chelsea Grayson is set to become CEO.

Greyson joined the company, which describes itself as the largest clothing manufacturer in North America, in 2014, assuming the roles of General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer with responsibility for both the legal team and human resources. The former BigLaw partner offered advice to other partners considering the leap saying “You have to believe in the company. You’ve got to know the company really well, and you have to believe in the management team that you’re either stepping into.”

Though the career ladder of in house professionals is certainly less straightforward than that of their private practice counterparts, the role is proving to have far greater potential in terms of reaching the top positions. According to figures from 2012, 15 Fortune 500 CEOs attended law school, a list which includes eight Harvard Law School alumni and three graduates from Columbia University's School of Law.

So as business leaders recognise the value of the GC’s strategic insight and the number of lawyer CEOs at US companies increases, it’s likely that the number of legal professionals looking to make the leap in house will also begin to rise.
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