A general counsel, also called a chief legal officer, is the chief lawyer in the legal department of an organization. The counsel represents an enterprise for any pending legal matters. They work proactively to lessen possible problems associated with legalities and potential risks. They have to monitor practices and the people within the law firm for misconduct. They also perform dominant roles in regulation, ethics, public affairs, and legislation. It is common for them to serve as the public spokesperson of the company during the publicity of legal matters.

General Counsel Responsibilities

Here are examples of responsibilities from real general counsel resumes representing typical tasks they are likely to perform in their roles.

  • Develop, implement and manage key business ethics programs including FCPA compliance and other anti-bribery/anti-kickback programs.
  • Review subpoenas and attorney letters for compliance with HIPAA and institutional guidelines and coordinate non-party depositions as needed.
  • Produce documents for submission to bankruptcy court.
  • Assist bankruptcy attorney in preparation of filing liens and judgments for collection due to regulation penalty.
  • Establish service level agreements, acceptable use policies, and internationally-compliant data security and privacy policies.
  • Monitor federal, state, local and/or international laws and regulations relating to data privacy and information security.
  • Handle corporate, regulatory, employment and litigation matters for property/casualty carrier, including supervision of outside counsel.
  • Negotiate and settle select copyright, trademark and patent infringement disputes internally minimizing the use of outside legal counsel.
  • Supervise and train unit charge with securing patient medical records, ensuring compliance with Medicare and HIPAA regulations and accreditation standards.
  • Draft guidelines for application of FDIC repudiation powers in various contexts, including master-software agreements and arrangements.
General Counsel Traits
Analytical skills have to do with gathering information from various sources and then interpreting the data in order to reach a logical conclusion that benefits the business.
Interpersonal skills involves being able to communicate efficiently with multiple people regarding your thoughts, ideas and feedback.
Problem-solving skills is the way that one is able to effectively solve a problem in a timely manner.

General Counsel Job Description

Perhaps the hardest question to answer when deciding on a career as a general counsel is "should I become a general counsel?" You might find this info to be helpful. When compared to other jobs, general counsel careers are projected to have a growth rate described as "as fast as average" at 6% from 2018 through 2028. This is in accordance with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What's more, is that the projected number of opportunities that are predicted to become available for a general counsel by 2028 is 50,100.

On average, the general counsel annual salary is $112,651 per year, which translates to $54.16 an hour. Generally speaking, general counsels earn anywhere from $65,000 to $194,000 a year, which means that the top-earning general counsels make $129,000 more than the ones at the lower end of the spectrum.

Once you've become a general counsel, you may be curious about what other opportunities are out there. Careers aren't one size fits all. For that reason, we discovered some other jobs that you may find appealing. Some jobs you might find interesting include a litigation associate, contract attorney, staff attorney, and attorney.

General Counsel Jobs You Might Like

General Counsel Resume Examples

General Counsel Skills and Personality Traits

We calculated that 31% of General Counsels are proficient in Legal Advice, Privacy, and Intellectual Property. They’re also known for soft skills such as Analytical skills, Interpersonal skills, and Problem-solving skills.

We break down the percentage of General Counsels that have these skills listed on their resume here:

  • Legal Advice, 31%

    Provided staff with legal opinions regarding fair housing complaints filed with our organization and provided legal advice regarding landlord tenant questions.

  • Privacy, 5%

    Train Executive Department legal and information technology community on technology law, employment, security and privacy matters.

  • Intellectual Property, 4%

    Developed and established an intellectual property portfolio, including patents and trademarks relating to various aspects of the company's technology.

  • Legal Documents, 4%

    Contribute strong communication and problem solving skills in counseling business owners and managers on legal matters and negotiating complex legal documents.

  • Risk Management, 4%

    Worked closely with Risk Management Department on insurance matters including development of standard form releases for athletes participating in company events.

  • Employment Law, 3%

    Advised executive and legislative officials on economic development programs and legislation, and handled employment law issues for the Department.

Some of the skills we found on general counsel resumes included "legal advice," "privacy," and "intellectual property." We have detailed the most important general counsel responsibilities below.

  • The most important skills for a general counsel to have in this position are analytical skills. In this excerpt that we gathered from a general counsel resume, you'll understand why: "lawyers help their clients resolve problems and issues" According to resumes we found, analytical skills can be used by a general counsel in order to "provide direction and analysis to business units on international law requirements. "
  • Another commonly found skill for being able to perform general counsel duties is the following: interpersonal skills. According to a general counsel resume, "lawyers must win the respect and confidence of their clients by building a trusting relationship so that clients feel comfortable enough to share personal information related to their case." Check out this example of how general counsels use interpersonal skills: "demonstrated effective interpersonal skills through working closely with office of general counsel and administrative appeals judges. "
  • Problem-solving skills is also an important skill for general counsels to have. This example of how general counsels use this skill comes from a general counsel resume, "lawyers must separate their emotions and prejudice from their clients’ problems and objectively evaluate the relevant applicable information" Read this excerpt from a resume to understand how vital it is to their everyday roles and responsibilities, "collaborated across various business units to identify needs and formulate solutions that met and exceeded expectations. "
  • A thorough review of lots of resumes revealed to us that "research skills" is important to completing general counsel responsibilities. This resume example shows just one way general counsels use this skill: "lawyers need to be able to find those laws and regulations which apply to a specific matter, in order to provide the appropriate legal advice for their clients." Here's an example of how this skill is used from a resume that represents typical general counsel tasks: "research various legal topics and draft memos for counsel and business units. "
  • Yet another important skill that a general counsel must demonstrate is "speaking skills." Lawyers must be able to clearly present and explain their case to arbitrators, mediators, opposing parties, judges, or juries, because they are speaking on behalf of their clients. This is clearly demonstrated in this example from a general counsel who stated: "coordinate with business units to ensure projects with highest priority are addressed. "
  • Another skill commonly found on general counsel resumes is "writing skills." This description of the skill was found on several general counsel resumes: "lawyers need to be precise and specific when preparing documents, such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney." Here's an example from a resume of how this skill could fit into the day-to-day general counsel responsibilities: "conduct high-level underwriting and due diligence on distressed loan portfolios, potential real estate targets and secured financing opportunities. "
  • See the full list of general counsel skills.

    Before becoming a general counsel, 44.5% earned their bachelor's degree. When it comes down to graduating with a master's degree, 7.8% general counsels went for the extra education. If you're wanting to pursue this career, it may be impossible to be successful with a high school degree. In fact, most general counsels have a college degree. But about one out of every ten general counsels didn't attend college at all.

    The general counsels who went onto college to earn a more in-depth education generally studied law and political science, while a small population of general counsels studied business and legal research and advanced professional studies.

    Once you're ready to become a general counsel, you should explore the companies that typically hire general counsels. According to general counsel resumes that we searched through, general counsels are hired the most by PricewaterhouseCoopers, The Aerospace, and U.S. Bank. Currently, PricewaterhouseCoopers has 14 general counsel job openings, while there are 4 at The Aerospace and 4 at U.S. Bank.

    If you're interested in companies where general counsels make the most money, you'll want to apply for positions at Edward Jones, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Danaher. We found that at Edward Jones, the average general counsel salary is $217,291. Whereas at PricewaterhouseCoopers, general counsels earn roughly $189,135. And at Danaher, they make an average salary of $187,130.

    View more details on general counsel salaries across the United States.

    Some other companies you might be interested in as a general counsel include Citi, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America. These three companies were found to hire the most general counsels from the top 100 U.S. educational institutions.

    For the most part, general counsels make their living in the non profits and education industries. General counsels tend to make the most in the technology industry with an average salary of $127,397. The general counsel annual salary in the manufacturing and telecommunication industries generally make $117,304 and $108,632 respectively. Additionally, general counsels who work in the technology industry make 71.2% more than general counsels in the government Industry.

    The three companies that hire the most prestigious general counsels are:

      What Litigation Associates Do

      A Litigation Associate offers legal advice for individuals involved in lawsuits and represents them in court. They prepare pleading, collect evidence, defend depositions, and manage the client database.

      In this section, we take a look at the annual salaries of other professions. Take litigation associate for example. On average, the litigation associates annual salary is $15,040 higher than what general counsels make on average every year.

      While the salaries between these two careers can be different, they do share some of the same responsibilities. Employees in both general counsels and litigation associates positions are skilled in legal advice, intellectual property, and legal documents.

      As far as similarities go, this is where it ends because a general counsel responsibility requires skills such as "privacy," "risk management," "ethics," and "human resources." Whereas a litigation associate is skilled in "federal courts," "pre-trial motions," "discovery responses," and "insurance companies." So if you're looking for what truly separates the two careers, you've found it.

      Litigation associates really shine in the professional industry with an average salary of $161,845. Whereas general counsels tend to make the most money in the technology industry with an average salary of $127,397.

      The education levels that litigation associates earn is a bit different than that of general counsels. In particular, litigation associates are 4.4% less likely to graduate with a Master's Degree than a general counsel. Additionally, they're 18.4% more likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

      What Are The Duties Of a Contract Attorney?

      A contract attorney is responsible for handling their clients' legal issues and settling cases by researching, analyzing, and collecting essential files that would support the clients' claims. Contract attorneys usually work for private clients without being permanently employed in a law firm or government agency. Contract attorneys represent clients at court, assist with law proceedings, and advise clients for the necessary legal procedures. A contract attorney must have excellent communication and critical-thinking skills to manage client legal matters and expertise in traditional disciplines and processes.

      Next up, we have the contract attorney profession to look over. This career brings along a lower average salary when compared to a general counsel annual salary. In fact, contract attorneys salary difference is $38,451 lower than the salary of general counsels per year.

      Not everything about these jobs is different. Take their skills, for example. General counsels and contract attorneys both include similar skills like "legal advice," "intellectual property," and "legal documents" on their resumes.

      But both careers also use different skills, according to real general counsel resumes. While general counsel responsibilities can utilize skills like "privacy," "risk management," "ethics," and "human resources," some contract attorneys use skills like "e-discovery software," "relevant documents," "attorney-client privilege," and "qc."

      Contract attorneys may earn a lower salary than general counsels, but contract attorneys earn the most pay in the professional industry with an average salary of $126,120. On the other side of things, general counsels receive higher paychecks in the technology industry where they earn an average of $127,397.

      On the topic of education, contract attorneys earn similar levels of education than general counsels. In general, they're 1.6% less likely to graduate with a Master's Degree and 18.4% more likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

      How a Staff Attorney Compares

      Staff Attorneys are legal employees who work for a variety of organizations, often as full-time employees. They use their legal expertise to help deal with day-to-day legal issues with which their organization needs regular assistance.

      The staff attorney profession generally makes a lower amount of money when compared to the average salary of general counsels. The difference in salaries is staff attorneys making $19,807 lower than general counsels.

      Using general counsels and staff attorneys resumes, we found that both professions have similar skills such as "legal advice," "intellectual property," and "legal documents," but the other skills required are very different.

      Some important key differences between the two careers are a few of the skills necessary to fulfill responsibilities. Some examples from general counsel resumes include skills like "privacy," "risk management," "ethics," and "human resources," whereas a staff attorney might be skilled in "federal courts," "ensure compliance," "administrative agencies," and "civil rights. "

      When it comes to education, staff attorneys tend to earn similar education levels than general counsels. In fact, they're 2.3% less likely to earn a Master's Degree, and 18.6% less likely to graduate with a Doctoral Degree.

      Description Of an Attorney

      Generally, an attorney's responsibility is to advise the client with an ongoing lawsuit on the legal procedures and provide strategies to resolve the case as early as possible. An attorney compiles necessary documents or any records for appeal and client's defense. Attorneys must acquire strong problem-solving and critical-thinking skills to mediate disputes and settle pending litigation for the client's best interest. In some cases, an attorney's procedure depends on any evidence and research presented during the trial period. An attorney is expected to present clients on legal proceedings, seeking justice and justifying the law.

      The fourth career we look at typically earns lower pay than general counsels. On average, attorneys earn a difference of $21,027 lower per year.

      While their salaries may vary, general counsels and attorneys both use similar skills to perform their jobs. Resumes from both professions include skills like "legal advice," "intellectual property," and "legal documents. "

      While some skills are shared by these professions, there are some differences to note. "privacy," "risk management," "ethics," and "human resources" are skills that have shown up on general counsels resumes. Additionally, attorney uses skills like criminal cases, document review, trial preparation, and federal courts on their resumes.

      The average resume of attorneys showed that they earn similar levels of education to general counsels. So much so that the likelihood of them earning a Master's Degree is 2.0% less. Additionally, they're more likely to earn a Doctoral Degree by 8.7%.