General Counsel Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A General Counsel, or Chief Legal Officer, is responsible for ensuring that a company complies with laws and regulations while carrying out its business and operations. Their duties include advising board members on relevant laws, responding to litigation and overseeing the development of legal policies and procedures in the company,


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General Counsel duties and responsibilities

A General Counsel is primarily responsible for ensuring that from a legal standpoint, senior management is able to make the best-informed choices for their business. A General Counsel has important leadership and advisory responsibilities to fulfil in order to achieve this goal and create a legally compliant company. Here are the primary duties and responsibilities of a General Counsel:

  • Presenting legal advice to company Directors, Board Members or Heads of Department
  • Developing long-term strategies with senior management to keep a company’s operations within legal spheres
  • Organising licensing or copyright for new products or company branding 
  • Developing and training a team of legal experts that can provide sound advice across the company’s areas of operations
  • Assisting the company to move into new markets in countries with different laws and regulations
  • Preparing documents, evidence, arguments and identifying legal precedents that can be used to justify the company’s decisions or actions
  • Representing the company in legal cases that are taken to court
  • Keeping the company informed and up to date on new laws and regulations that might be applicable to their business


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What does a General Counsel do?

A General Counsel works in a senior management and leadership role, usually within a large business or multinational company. Their primary task is to oversee the legal operations within a company, delegating tasks to a team of Lawyers, Solicitors and legal staff to ensure that laws and regulations are abided by on a daily basis. A General Counsel works closely with the board of directors and senior figures such as a CEO or Director of Operations to advise on legal matters and to produce a detailed and effective legal framework through which the company can do business legally. 


General Counsel skills and qualifications

General Counsels need expert legal knowledge and an excellent understanding of business to be successful in the role. As a senior leadership position, General Counsels also requires leadership and communication skills in order to succeed. Here are the key skills and qualifications required of a General Counsel:

  • Detailed knowledge of the specific laws and regulations that apply to the industry that the company works in, such as trading standards or import restrictions
  • Detailed knowledge of local law within the United Kingdom and laws within the European Union and other parts of the world
  • Awareness of market forces, politics and economics and their relation to changing laws and regulations 
  • Ability to convey complex legal information in an understandable format
  • Ability to delegate legal tasks to team members and the confidence to provide senior management with legal recommendations
  • Public speaking skills and the ability to present and defend legal arguments
  • Registered and qualified with the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx)


General Counsel experience requirements

General Counsels need extensive legal and leadership experience to succeed in the role. Employers need to look for applicants with a minimum of ten years of experience practising law with five of those years spent in a management or leadership role. General Counsels can gain experience working as solicitors or legal professionals across a range of industries, but employers can prioritise candidates with experience working in commercial or trade law.


General Counsel education and training requirements

General Counsels need a strong academic background and extensive law training to be successful in the role. As well as strong GCSE and A-level results in English and maths, employers need to look for applicants with excellent results at degree level. Candidates can study for law degrees or they must have completed a law conversion course, such as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). Employers also require candidates to have completed a Legal Practice Course (LPC) and a Professional Skills Course (PSC) to legally be allowed to practise law in the United Kingdom. 


General Counsel salary expectations

According to Indeed Salaries, the average salary for a General Counsel is £93,261 per year. Salary may be dependent on experience, location and company. 


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General Counsel job description FAQs


What is the difference between a General Counsel and a Chief of Staff?

While a General Counsel is concerned with the legal operations of a company, the Chief of Staff is responsible for the daily operations of a large company. Their duties include organising logistics and effectively streamlining different departments to work together to ensure that business can be carried out. 


What makes for an excellent General Counsel job description?

An excellent General Counsel job description outlines the ethos and values of the company alongside an overview of their areas of business. This means outlining the goals of the company, the geographical locations where they do business and the areas of responsibility that a General Counsel will be given in relation to this. 


What qualities does a General Counsel need?

As well as leadership and management qualities, a General Counsel needs to have a high level of resilience, perseverance and confidence in order to succeed. This a busy, high-powered job that involves lots of responsibility and a General Counsel needs the fortitude to make difficult and complicated legal decisions and to back them up. 

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