Hiring for the Legal Department - A White Paper


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A short guide for hiring managers and corporate HR professionals on how to make better hiring decisions when recruiting in-house counsel.

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Hiring for the Legal Department - A White Paper

  1. 1. Hiring for the Legal Department MLA White PaperWhat is different about hiring for my legal department vs.  h f i ?other functions? Many hiring executives agree that hiring for the legal For lower level in‐house counsel roles, there is a greaterfunction may not be a core competency of most need for detailed focus and expertise in specific subjectcorporate HR teams. While a software company may areas. An in‐depth understanding of and experience in aknow where to find and how to evaluate all of the top particular practice or regulatory area are always helpful.and qualified programmers, or a technology company These individuals must also have the ability to understandmay know about the best and the brightest engineers department and company goals and manage work withwho fit its company culture – knowing where the best those goals in mind.lawyers are with the right skill set and right cultural fit isnot usually the bailiwick of the HR/recruiting team. In Hiring the right lawyers for these legal functions ismost companies, this team is focused on maintaining a ultimately about knowing the legal industry, andconstant awareness of the availability of top talent for knowing the right lawyers.core company roles and industry‐standard functions inthe marketplace. Unfortunately, the one area where this A lot of people think that they know what lawyers do andfocus and expertise might be lacking is in hiring for the some have a pretty good idea, but complete appreciationlegal department. of the role of a lawyer comes from understanding and having experienced the particulars of the profession ‐ from the nuances of a legal education and the experience of a junior associate to what makes a partner at a firmHiring in‐house counsel – how different is it? rise to that level or whether an M&A lawyer or a litigator would make the best GC.While it shares some elements with hiring for otherfunctions, hiring in‐house counsel does present unique Generalizations about the types of lawyers who becomechallenges to a corporate HR department. litigators, corporate securities lawyers and intellectual property lawyers, for example, abound, however, aYou will find the most similarity between the legal litigator may prove to be a calculated risk taker or anfunction and other roles at the executive level. As with opinionated individualist. A corporate securities lawyermost executives, the General Counsel (GC) or Chief Legal might be a “get‐it‐done” deal maker or a detail‐orientedOfficer (CLO) must be a strategic, big‐picture thinker, with contract drafter. An intellectual property attorney mightthe ability to manage people and priorities set goals and priorities, be an “introverted inventor” type or a big‐picturefocus the organization towards those goals. Any hiring technology leader. Regardless of practice stereotypes,effort at this level can be one of the most complex and any individual lawyer can fall anywhere along achallenging responsibilities any company can undertake personality and style spectrum, and therefore may orbecause of the many varied roles that these executives may not work in a particular position or in a specificmust fulfill. In the case of the GC, he or she is called upon company.to lead and steward the legal and ethical standards of anentire company as well as provide bulletproof legal In order to move beyond generalizations about a lawyercounsel to senior staff members and the board. The GC based upon his or her resume and hire the lawyer whoalso has the duty of overseeing the activities of the in‐ has the potential to shine in your organization, you needhouse legal department. Perhaps most important, he or to know lawyers and understand their individualshe is charged with managing and balancing an expertise and motivations.organization’s corporate risk – protecting it from legalmissteps without impeding its progress toward strategicgoals and objectives. Copyright 2011 • MLA Legal, LLC • All Rights Reserved 1
  2. 2. Hiring for the Legal DepartmentWho Really Understands Lawyers? depth of experience have taught us how to look beyond an impressive CV to identify an outstanding attorney whoA complete understanding of a lawyer’s expertise and will make a significant contribution to a specificmotivations is not easy to get from a resume or even an company’s long‐term success.interview, particularly because many attorneys are skilleddrafters and orators. Having as your hiring partner We are committed to working with our client companiessomeone who regularly guides lawyers as they move in every way we can. For example, MLA collaboratesthrough their careers from associates to partners or in‐ closely with human resources staff, executives andhouse counsel can help you better understand these General Counsel to carefully craft position descriptionsmotivations and behaviors. Having access to recruiters g that are clearly defined yet open enough to allow for awho have worked with specific lawyers as colleagues, pool of qualified candidates. Our HR partners findcandidates and clients over a number of years provides a particularly helpful our capacity to conduct searchesfoundation for gaining a better understanding of the locally, nationally and globally and our grasp ofindividual lawyer and whether he or she is right for your competitive compensation and benefits worldwide. Wecompany. While hiring lawyers may not be that different, are equally well‐versed in the specific needs of a widehiring the right lawyer is about having a long term range of industries – financial services, manufacturing,competency in building relationships with lawyers and technology, entertainment and energy, to name a few. Itknowing more about them than a resume would reveal reveal. all adds up to a unique ability to target exceptional legal talent compatible with your company’s corporate culture and business goals. Resume – experience,  education,  Of course, we couldn’t create such successful placements skills if the matches weren’t equally satisfying for our Overall  candidates. MLAs in‐house consultants often mentor lawyer  attorneys throughout their career. We carefully guide potential and  corporate counsel candidates through the critical variables concerning the interview process, compensation fit for  by market, expatriate packages, salary negotiation, Person – position relocation and insight into the employers company drivers,  culture and business objectives. motivations,  behaviors It’s what makes MLA not just an intermediary but a true partner and consultant to General Counsel, CorporateAt Major, Lindsey & Africa, we understand that Counsel, HR Professionals and candidates alike.identifying the best person for in‐house legal positionsrequires a search process of the first order – and a searchfirm with unmatched experience, insight and resources. Italso requires specific legal and corporate counsel hiringexpertise that is rarely found within a company’s ownranks; or even among recruiters of the most p g prestigious gexecutive search firms, who do not focus exclusively onthe legal marketplace.Founded and staffed by many search consultants who are Dimitri G. Mastrocola Partner, In‐House Practice Groupformer in‐house lawyers and GCs, MLA has a rare Major, Lindsey & Africaunderstanding of what it takes to meet this serious 212‐201‐3993challenge – and exciting opportunity. Our proprietary dmastrocola@mlaglobal.com gknowledge system marketplace intelligence and unique system, Copyright 2011 • MLA Legal, LLC • All Rights Reserved 2