Am I General Counsel Material?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on July 13, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

"What are some essential general counsel skills?"

This question is undoubtedly on the mind of all in-house counsel, and all attorneys who are aspiring to become in-house counsel.

Most general counsel positions require at least a few years of experience where attorneys can hone their skills. Some companies even highly prefer attorneys with government experience right now. But, besides this requisite experience, what else do savvy general counsels need?

Effective communication skills are essential. As an integral part of the company, general counsels are expected to have to deal with a variety of different people from within the company - and outside the company. Learning how to effectively communicate with management, board of directors, employees, outside counsel, and other companies are all skills that general counsels need to have.

Knowing what costs money - and what can save money. In-house counsels should have some knowledge about how much certain things cost to do, and when it's prudent for a company to outsource some legal work to outside counsel. Sometimes, handling everything in-house can be inefficient and too expensive.

The ability to multi-task and be efficient. Sure, general counsels aren't exactly under the thumb of the billable hour, and don't have to worry about keeping track of time. But, general counsels still need to be able to finish tasks by deadlines and file documents when they're due. Plus, since general counsels are "general" by nature - handling the many legal issues that a company may have - being able to multi-task is important.

Can navigate meetings well. Most attorneys have been in more than a few meetings in their lifetime. But, knowing how to make meetings run efficiently, smoothly, and to the point? That's a skill that is definitely useful for in-house counsels, who generally may need to help out with running a variety of meetings and conferences for the business.

Of course, this list isn't an exhaustive general counsel skills checklist. There are many other skills that general counsels may need in their day-to-day job, but if you're wondering if you're general counsel material - and you seem to fit all the qualifications above - there's probably a high chance that you are.

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