On May 9, 2014 four prominent General Counsels shared their insights on a range of topics during a program entitled: “ Leading an Exceptional Legal Department -How do you Grow, Lead and Manage Success? A Panel Discussion of General Counsels – Lessons Learned from the Top.” The program, sponsored by the Association of Corporate Counsel, New Jersey Chapter and Princeton Legal Search Group was moderated by David S. Garber, Esq., President of Princeton Legal Search Group, LLC.
The panelists included Scott McLester, General Counsel, Wyndham Worldwide, Peter Mc Donough, General Counsel of Princeton University, Sam Khichi, General Counsel, Catalent Pharma Solutions, and Jennifer Benenson, North American General Counsel, Ipsen Biopharmaceuticals.
Although the panelists represented companies or institutions of varying sizes from a variety of industries, here is what they had in common:
Passion for their profession including their organization.
The ability to assess legal questions in a variety of contexts.
The ability to adapt to different personality types within their departments and across their businesses or organizations.
An openness to receiving coaching for themselves or members of their legal team.
Recognition of the value of diversity in their legal departments.
Notable differences included:
The size and organization of the legal departments including strategies for formal and informal training.
The use of metrics by some to manage performance, the use of Six Sigma and regular career management and performance discussions by others.
All of the panelists are attuned to culture and fit:
During the panel discussion the members clearly articulated the culture and norms that they were operating within and how deeply important it is to make decisions within the context of their organizations. Several went so far to say that as a General Counsel you must check your ego at the door and work for the organizational goal.
Questions To Consider:
The panel discussion raises some reflective questions to ask yourself about how you lead within your legal department (and within your company) whether as the General Counsel or as an emerging leader:
Should members of the legal department specialize or is it better for everyone to function as a generalist? How will my department and the organization we serve benefit the most?
Can I articulate my company’s culture whether it is “Count on Me” or “Grow the Business, Protect the Assets” and am I able to deliver world class legal services and make decisions reflective of these cultural norms?
Do I know who my client is and do I have more than one client? What do I do as General Counsel if my client’s objectives should conflict with my ethical obligations as a lawyer?
Do I know my personality style and how to adapt it to others’ styles within my legal department and with my client base? How does my style influence outcomes? How does it influence hiring and training?
And finally, in the ever changing diverse world we live and work in, as a General Counsel do you have a strategy to identify and secure the best and the brightest diverse pool of legal talent for your organization?