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Monday, October 3, 2022

How to Hire Your Next Legal Executive + Legal Executive Interview & Hiring Guide (for Hiring Leaders)

In today’s world of constantly changing regulations, it’s easy to make a mistake or run afoul of the law. Companies seek to mitigate their risk of legal troubles by employing a general counsel or chief legal officer (CLO) who can ensure that their actions comply with established regulations. 

Before hiring a new legal executive, you’ll want to determine what the employee will be responsible for. You’ll also need to choose an executive with the appropriate legal background for your company. 

Legal professionals often practice in specific areas of law. While they may understand primary facets of all legal concerns, they’ll have significant expertise in only a handful.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to hire your next legal executive and how to embark on the interview process.

Defining the Responsibilities of Your Next Legal Executive

Your next legal executive will likely be responsible for all things legal and compliance-related in your company. However, certain organizations require specific legal executives. Large organizations may have a team of legal professionals dedicated to different areas of the company.

If you’re looking to hire someone to oversee your entire legal team, you’ll want a person skilled in the areas of law that are pertinent to your company. 

For instance, a multinational organization may want to hire someone familiar with the laws of other countries and how they interact with the parent company’s location. Depending on the company’s market sector, that person may also need expertise in manufacturing or product law.

If the new legal executive doesn’t have management responsibilities, they may act as the sole legal counsel for the organization. Usually, smaller-scale organizations begin by working with a general counsel until the need for a fully internal legal team arises.

Identify Your Legal Executive Goals

Next, you’ll want to determine the objectives you’re seeking to achieve with a legal executive. Goals will differ depending on the needs of the company. 

Some organizations simply want a soundboard for all decisions that may have a legal impact on the company. Others are looking for a strategic business partner for upcoming organizational changes, like merging with another company or opening a new location.

Before beginning your hiring process, note the objectives of the future legal executive and generate a complete list of their responsibilities. You’ll include these duties and goals in your job description when you open the role to applications. 

Get Assistance in the Hiring Process

If you’re not familiar with legal credentials or expertise, you may seek the assistance of an outside advisor. The advisor can help you sort through applicants to evaluate their backgrounds and point out potential candidates who may be a good fit. 

While hiring someone with a law degree and some experience in the legal field is a good start, no two lawyers are the same. Some may have experience in areas that don’t apply to your business. You’ll want to make sure that your new hire has experience working with organizations similar to yours in a business capacity. 

An outside advisor can help you avoid potential mistakes that may prove costly down the road.

Define the Hiring Process

Your new legal executive will likely work with various people in your organization. They’ll regularly advise company executives and may work with individual department leaders. 

Identify the team members most likely to work with the legal executive regularly and include them in the hiring process. Doing so will allow multiple leaders to play a role in selecting the legal counsel and ensure that you get buy-in across departments.

Your hiring process will likely consist of multiple interviews with different executives and senior management leaders. Following every discussion round, make sure that each interviewer records their observations about the candidates. You can use these notes when formulating a final decision.

Identify Critical Questions to Ask Your Candidates

Each person involved in the interview process should create a list of critical questions to ask applicants. The questions should pertain specifically to the role and its objectives. Inquiries can also seek to determine the applicant’s leadership and work style, which help establish whether they will fit into the organization’s culture.

Consider an organization looking to open a new location in another state. The company will want to ensure that its site complies with all state and national regulations. Interviewers may ask questions like:

  • Have you overseen the legal aspects of opening a new location in another state?
  • What roadblocks did you encounter during the process?
  • How did you overcome the setbacks?
  • Do you have legal contacts who could assist you during the compliance process of opening a new location in the state?
  • What would be your first objectives in the initial 90 days of coming on board?
  • Describe your process for working with leaders of different departments.

These questions should vary depending on the objectives of the new legal executive position. 

Interviewers must take careful note of the answers to critical questions. Once the company completes the interview process, all stakeholders should compare their observations to determine the candidates that align best with company goals.

Choose Your New Legal Executive

Once the interview process ends, you’ll need to make a hiring decision. Gather all of the stakeholders and ask them for their thoughts. Once everyone provides their insights, the team can come to a consensus and select the candidate who seems to be the best fit for the role.

Making the Most of the Hiring Experience

Bringing a new legal executive onto your team should be a strategic process that considers the needs of your organization and its stakeholders. You’ll want to select someone with the appropriate legal knowledge for your company goals who also fits in well with your organization’s culture. 

Sometimes, seeking outside advice from a qualified individual or entity can help you better understand a lawyer’s experience. Since legal expertise can vary widely, you don’t want to choose someone whose background isn’t a good fit. 

Finally, consider the perspectives of everyone involved in the hiring process. Doing so can help you avoid potential biases and lead to a more well-rounded decision-making process. 

Contributed by Cowen Partners Executive Search

Cowen Partners is the nation’s executive search firm, enabling companies to harness the power of human capital to fuel their success. Cowen Partners gives our clients access to the top 1% of human capital to create opportunities that accelerate their growth and market share. With Cowen Partners, clients can grow at scale, create value, and drive results with world class talent. Our clients are both small and large, publicly traded, pre-IPO, private, and non-profit organizations. Clients are typically $50 million to multi-billion dollar revenue Fortune 1000 companies or have assets between $500 million to $15 billion. Successful placements span the entire C-Suite and include VP and director level leadership roles. With our proven processes and guaranteed results, we have successfully placed hundreds of candidates in industries including technology, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, financial services, and private equity.

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