Inside Track: Career Path for Aspiring GCs Becoming More Daunting

For in-house counsel aspiring to a general counsel position, sticking it out at one company for years in hopes of a promotion to the top job isn’t as promising these days.

According to’s Trudy Knockless, companies are more likely to hire a general counsel from outside the company instead of promoting from within its legal department. Russell Reynolds Associates reported that 61 percent of Fortune 500 companies hired general counsel from outside the company. This is an increase of 11 percent in 2000, when half of companies hired general counsel externally. 

The report also stated, “GCs are seen as true enterprise leaders, trusted to guide companies through the choppy waters of politics, inflation, reputational risk, and AI.” Not all in-house counsel embody these qualities, leading the trend of general counsel positions being filled externally to rise from 36 percent in 2022 to 44 percent in 2023. 

For deputy general counsel waiting for a promotion, this trend doesn’t seem to encourage dedication and a harder work ethic. In-house counsel lower in ranks who are counting on an internal chain reaction of promotions also don’t benefit from this trend. 

“It is total risk-aversion. Corporate America is very risk-averse,” said Jason Winmill, managing partner of Argopoint, a management consulting firm for legal departments. 

Are you interested in more advice about hiring trends for general counsel?  Read more in this article.

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