Succession planning: now for general counsel, too

Photo courtesy of Adam Tinworth on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Adam Tinworth on Flickr

Rob Swystun, Pristine Advisers

So, we all know that CEO succession planning is important. And board succession. And it’s a good idea to have some kind of plan for other C-suite executives, too. A new survey shows that this succession planning extends to a company’s general counsel, as well.

Planning the succession of general counsel is important to ensure that no loopholes are left and also so important vacancies get filled, writes Juliana Kenny in an InsideCounsel article.

The survey, done by executive search firm BarkerGilmore and NYSE Governance Services, found that CEOs and board members of publicly traded companies believe general counsels add value to their respective companies with their advice on all kinds of governance issues like shareholder engagement, ethics and compliance.

“CEOs and board members increasingly expect the general counsel to add value as a leader in the C-Suite and bring keen perspectives on company issues, especially as the regulatory environment expands and competition in the market increases,” BarkerGilmore managing partner Robert Barker said in a statement.

The firm emailed more than 5,000 directors, board chairs, and CEOs of publicly traded companies on the NYSE Governance Services database for the survey and found that 86% of CEOs and directors that participated believe general counsel succession planning is a priority, yet only 40% of those companies actually have general counsel succession plans in place.

As Kenney writes; “It is clear that identifying, developing, and preparing internal talent for the GC role is still a budding concept for many executives.”

She calls having a general counsel vital to running a successful business, especially large and/or public ones, to ensure they are meeting all their required compliance and regulatory requirements. Plus, as Kenny says, general counsel can help with cyber security, social media management and the legal ramifications of electronic document recovery and storage.

“Owing to the elevated importance and influence of the GC on executive teams, there is increasing pressure to have a GC succession plan prepared and readied,” BarkerGilmore managing partner John Gilmore said in a statement. “As awareness has grown, the efforts and resources being devoted to succession planning have also been amplified.”

Clearly, a solid succession plan for general counsel is now one that cannot be ignored as a required element of corporate infrastructure along with the CEO and board members. Basically, you should just have a succession plan for everyone. Have you thought about who is gonna replace the janitor when he leaves?

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