How to Land a Corporate or Nonprofit Board Position

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on November 20, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

More in-house counsel are landing positions on corporate boards these days. So how does one land such an important position?

In a recent article, Inside Counsel described an invitation-only panel discussion about general counsel on corporate boards. Such governing bodies are increasingly looking to add lawyers to their ranks, especially when they face regulatory compliance issues, IC reports.

Of course, lawyers aren't limited to joining corporate boards, which typically compensate their members. Nonprofit boards, which may not offer any pay, can also benefit from a lawyer's leadership and analytical skills.

If you're thinking about joining a corporate or nonprofit board, here are some tips to get you started:

1. Network, network, network

If board members haven't come looking for you, perhaps they aren't aware of your interest. Attend functions where you can spread the word that you'd like to join a board of directors. To get started, take a look at these networking tips for in-house counsel.

2. Consider Your Values, and Your Schedule

For corporate boards, consider the company's culture, its dynamics, the risks it may be facing, and the general tone of the board before you throw your hat into the ring, the GC panelists said, according to Inside Counsel. For nonprofits, ask yourself if your values fit the group's mission and purpose.

For both types of boards, membership will likely be quite time-consuming, so be honest about how much time you'll be able to devote to the board.

3. Restructure Your Resume

As a GC panelist said, according to IC, lawyers should revise their resumes to be shorter, and emphasize the skills you would bring to the board. Those seeking nonprofit positions may want to highlight prior experience in the nonprofit sector.

4. Prepare for Interviews

You may face one panel interview, or several one-on-one interviews, or a combination. Either way, do your homework and research the company or nonprofit. Identify its strengths and weaknesses, and also conduct an Internet search for any recent incidents that may call for some lawyerly analysis as a board member.

5. Act Ethically

Remember to disclose all potential conflicts of interest when they arise, in your interviews and especially when you're on the board. Being a board member may not be your primary job, but it can potentially lead to discipline if a lawyer isn't careful.

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