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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

January 28, 2020

I’m the GC of a large public company subsidiary and want to make a move. For which roles am I most marketable? Would accepting a non-GC role hurt my career? If not, what titles are ok?

Julie Q. Brush

Currently, as the GC of a large public company subsidiary (and depending on your substantive background and strengths), your candidacy will be most marketable for the following types of legal roles:

• General Counsel of a small public company
• General Counsel of a mid to late stage private company
• General Counsel of another public or private company subsidiary
• Director of Legal Affairs/Head of Legal/VP of Legal in private company (these roles function as the GC, but are not treated as a GC level position within the company)
• Deputy General Counsel in late stage private company
• Deputy General  Counsel and AGC in a public company company
• Sr. Director to VP level in a large public company (title will depend on size of company)

In addition, employers make a distinction between a GC of a public/private company and a GC of a company subsidiary. And the two roles are treated differently from a profile and marketability perspective. The former is seen as a member of upper management, having significant interaction with the Board and a broader set of companywide responsibilities. Because of this market view, pursuing and accepting a non-GC role won’t raise as many questions for you or hurt your career…unless it’s clearly a head-scratching move. What will matter to future employers will be the quality of your next move – which will hinge on a few factors including: the brand of the company, level of the role within the legal department, title and role responsibilities.

For your current career concerns, “appropriate” titles for non GC positions (considered by someone at your level) are: Deputy General Counsel (DGC), Associate General Counsel (AGC), Vice President + an added 2nd title ________ (fill in the blank), Director of Legal Affairs (if the role functions as GC in a private company), and in a small number circumstances, a standalone Senior Director title might be ok if the company is large and prominent in the corporate world.

As you contemplate the next chapter of your career, understanding the lay of the land, your marketability and the career ramifications of a specific move is prudent…and wise. With your current profile and in your current position, you’ll have a variety of roles and titles to consider. And a variety of choices that will move your career in a positive direction.

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