5 things you should know if you want to be the next Fortune

by Vault Law Editors | April 22, 2010

  • My Vault

Jacques Aboaf, Vault’s senior director of recruitment marketing for North America (and frequent presenter on personal branding and marketing), is down in Miami at the MCCA’s annual GCI Diversity Leadership Summit, and he’s shared some highlights from this afternoon’s panel discussion, “The Next GC Short List of Candidates.” Panelists included an array of professionals from top executive search firms who work with companies to find the best candidates for in-house counsel positions: Paul Williams, partner at Major Lindsey & Africa; Denise Grant, Russell Reynolds; Selena LaCroix, Egon Zehnder International Inc.; and Lee Hanson, Heidrick & Struggles.

  1. How important is diversity in the search for the next GC?

    There’s a strong awareness and motivation at senior leadership level, and at the board level as well, to have women and minority GC candidates. Of current general counsel at Fortune 500 companies:
    •   16.4 percent are women
    •   25 GCs are African American
    •   11 are Asian American
    •   5 are Hispanic

  2. How are candidates found?

    Most Fortune 500 firms fill openings using retained search. Retained search acts as agent on behalf of their client to find the right talent. Once there is upfront, thorough understanding of where the company is heading and what the role is actually going to look like, the retained search firm will begin the search. First, they talk with their placed candidates and sources friendly to the firm. Posted ads generally are not nearly as effective as word of mouth. That network generates referrals and inquiries to the search phone.

    Firms search their database, network, reach out to CEO and directors, GC, and people in a position to know individuals who have the skill sets needed. From a diversity perspective, Paul Williams says he always wants to include diverse candidates and will actively broach the diversity subject if client does not raise the issue. He will include ethnic, gender, geographic and, when necessary, industry diversity.

  3. Is social media a source?

    It is used, but is not primary. The caliber of people is surprisingly high on LinkedIn.

  4. Telecom vs pharmaceutical: what importance is placed on industry in selection of general counsel?

    Some require industry experience, others desire background from outside industry. Financial services are insistent upon same industry experience. It very much depends on client bias, but some search firms will test the strength of that bias by presenting a good candidate. If the CEO pushes back, they know they really don't have flexibility. Often the DNA of the person overcomes the bias.

  5. What percentage of GC positions are filled internally?

    About 40 percent. Search firms are often called upon to assess internal candidates alongside the externally sourced candidate. It’s a difficult dynamic to finesse, since they have to be scrupulously fair to internal candidates. Even where they are confident of the succession plan, companies want to make sure to measure them against candidates known nationally.

- posted by vera

Filed Under: Law

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