Job Description Templates

General Counsel Job Description Template

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The role of general counsel is crucial as they act as an advisor to the CEO, leadership team, and other decision makers within an organization for all matters concerning laws, regulatory compliance, ethics, policy, and risk. General counsel responsibilities include:

  • Providing legal advice and counsel to the organization's leadership
  • Overseeing legal compliance and managing regulatory issues
  • Drafting and reviewing contracts, agreements, and other legal documents
  • Representing the company in legal proceedings when necessary
  • Managing external legal resources and relationships

Below is a job description template built specifically for the general counsel role. Feel free to use it and adapt it to your specific needs.

About [Company]

This section convinces candidates to apply for a role at your Company instead of another. Include practical information about the Company, as well as details about its culture and values.

[Company] helps [Target] do [x].

[Company] consists of over [x] employees spanning over [x] countries, remaining compliant and united in our approach to top-quality products and services. Our unified yet diverse culture keeps us continually learning and innovating ourselves and our products.

Our market-leading technology, expertise, and global team are crucial to our success and customer satisfaction. We deliver the best products on the market and uphold our reputable brand image.

Why should you be part of [Company] success story?

We envision a world of [x].

We offer [Target] all the tools they need.

There’s never been a more exciting time to join [Company]

About the general counsel role

Consider whether you need a description of the role or prefer to list duties and responsibilities directly as a bullet-point list.

As our general counsel, you’ll be responsible for providing legal advice, guidance, and representation for [Company]. You understand the impact you’ll create on the bottom line, playing one of the most vital roles in the Company and working closely with the Chief legal officer and other senior management.

The day-to-day role and general counsel responsibilities include the following:

  • Analyzing legal issues and guiding executives, managers, and employees on matters such as contracts, legal compliance, intellectual property, employment law, and risk management
  • Drafting, negotiating, and reviewing contracts, mergers, agreements, and other legal documents, protecting the organization’s interests while ensuring the documents align with the organization’s objectives
  • Overseeing and managing the organization’s legal matters, including managing outside counsel, handling disputes, leases in real estate, insurance matters, and representing the Company in legal proceedings or negotiations 
  • Assessing and mitigating legal risks by identifying potential legal risks and developing a legal strategy to mitigate them, working closely with other departments to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations, and minimizing legal exposure
  • Developing and implementing legal policies, procedures, and guidelines to ensure the organization's operations according to the law
  • Collaborating with internal stakeholders to provide legal services such as legal guidance, address legal issues, and offer legal opinions to ensure that business decisions align with legal requirements and best practices

About compensation

The more openly you talk about compensation and benefits, the more honest and attractive your job listing will be. We suggest a brief introduction about the values behind your compensation package, followed by a bullet-point list with the details of what is offered.

  • Salary
  • Bonuses
  • Equity
  • Perks
  • PTO
  • Personal development budget
  • Healthcare and wellness budget
  • Pension plan
  • Insurance contribution
  • Off-sites or events

General Counsel Qualifications

  • A Juris Doctor (J.D) degree from an accredited law school is required, as well as the license to practice law in [X] jurisdiction
  • [X] years of experience practicing law in a law firm or in-house legal department as corporate counsel
  • Legal experience in corporate law, labor law, contract law, litigation, regulatory compliance, corporate governance, and other relevant areas is highly valued
  • Prior experience in managing a legal team of professionals, such as supervising attorneys and paralegals or managing legal operations, is beneficial
  • Familiarity with industry-specific regulations, standards, and legal issues
  • Familiarity with legal tools and processes, including legal research tools, case management systems, contract management software, and other relevant technology

General Counsel Skills

List the soft skills and personal qualities you are looking for in the perfect candidate.
  • Excellent communication skills - you must have excellent verbal and written communication skills to convey legal concepts effectively, offer advice, and provide information to both legal and non-legal stakeholders in a clear and concise way
  • Negotiation skills - when offering legal counsel, you advocate for the organization’s interests, find mutually beneficial solutions, and achieve favorable outcomes
  • Leadership and management skills - you serve as a key advisor to senior management and executives and should possess strong leadership skills and the ability to influence stakeholders effectively
  • Integrity - ethical behavior is at the core of all of a general counsel’s responsibilities, and you must demonstrate high levels of integrity and professionalism while ensuring the highest standards of confidentiality and good standing
  • Problem-solving and decision-making skills - you will encounter complex legal challenges in this position, and you must have strong problem-solving skills to weigh various factors, consider potential consequences, and make informed decisions
  • Adaptability and resilience - general counsels operate in a dynamic and evolving legal landscape and must be adaptable to changing circumstances, open to new ideas, and demonstrate resilience in the face of challenges

How much does a General Counsel make?

The exact salary of a General Counsel can vary based on factors such as experience, location, industry, and the size of the organization. Here is a general overview of median salaries for General Counsels in different regions.

  • North America: In North America, particularly the United States and Canada, General Counsels typically earn a median annual salary ranging from $150,000 to $250,000 or more. Salaries can vary significantly based on experience, industry, and the organization's size.
  • Europe: In Europe, salaries for General Counsels vary across countries. In Western European countries, median salaries can range from €100,000 to €200,000 or more annually. 
  • Middle East and North Africa: In the MENA region, General Counsel roles may have varying salary levels. Median salaries in countries like the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, or Saudi Arabia may range from $120,000 to $200,000.
  • Asia-Pacific: General Counsel salaries in the Asia-Pacific region can vary widely. In countries like Australia, Singapore, or Japan, median wages range from $120,000 to $200,000 or more. 

Additional salary-related considerations

While these figures provide a general indication, consider other factors when assessing General Counsel salaries:

  • Industry: Salaries may vary based on the industry. General Counsels in highly regulated sectors, such as finance or healthcare, may receive higher compensation.
  • Company size: Salaries may increase with the size and complexity of the organization. Larger enterprises may offer higher salaries.
  • Legal team size: The size and scope of the legal team led by the General Counsel can impact compensation.
  • Geographical location: Cost of living in different regions can significantly influence the real value of a salary.

Individuals considering a career as a General Counsel should conduct thorough research, build a strong professional network, and stay updated on legal and industry trends to position themselves for success in this influential legal role.

How to become a General Counsel

While there isn’t a fixed path to becoming a General Counsel, several common steps can guide individuals aspiring to this high-level legal position.

Common pathways to becoming a General Counsel

Legal education 

Attaining a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from a reputable law school is a foundational step in becoming a General Counsel. Individuals interested in corporate law may also benefit from coursework in business law and corporate governance.

Bar admission 

Obtaining admission to the bar is a prerequisite to practice law as a General Counsel. This involves passing the bar exam in the jurisdiction where you intend to practice. Maintaining good standing with the bar association is crucial for continuing your legal practice.

Legal practice 

In-house legal positions within corporations or government agencies can also provide relevant experience, particularly in corporate law, employment law, and regulatory compliance.

Professional certifications 

While not always required, obtaining relevant certifications can enhance your credibility as a legal professional. Common certifications for General Counsels include:

  • Corporate Counsel Certification (CCC)
  • Certified In-House Counsel (CIC)

Corporate experience 

Building a solid foundation in corporate law is essential for aspiring General Counsels. This involves gaining experience in legal areas relevant to corporate operations, such as contract law, mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, and compliance.

General Counsel education


A robust educational background in law is essential. In addition to the JD, a strong business or corporate law foundation is highly beneficial. Common educational paths include:

  • Master of Law (LLM) with a focus on business or corporate law
  • Dual degrees combining law and business administration

Professional development programs 

Participating in professional development programs, seminars, and workshops tailored to the legal profession is crucial for General Counsels to stay updated on evolving legal landscapes and hone their skills. Areas of focus may include:

  • Corporate governance
  • Ethics and compliance
  • Risk management
  • Negotiation and dispute resolution

Alternative career paths

Some General Counsels transition into the role from different professional backgrounds. Understanding which roles align well with a transition to the legal field can help plan a successful career switch.

Private Practice 

Legal professionals in private practice, particularly those with extensive experience in corporate law or litigation, may transition to the role of General Counsel.

Government legal positions 

Attorneys in government legal positions, such as prosecutors or regulatory attorneys, may find their skills and experience transferable to corporate legal departments.

Regulatory affairs 

Professionals with a background in regulatory affairs, particularly in industries heavily regulated by government agencies, can successfully transition to the role of General Counsel. 

Compliance officer

Individuals from a compliance officer background may excel in aligning legal strategies with broader organizational compliance objectives.

What is a general counsel? 

A general counsel (GC), also known as chief legal officer (CLO), is the highest-ranking legal executive within an organization. They are responsible for overseeing all legal matters and for providing strategic legal advice to senior management and the board of directors.

What does a general counsel do? 

A general counsel's responsibilities include:

    • Providing legal guidance on business decisions and strategies
    • Managing legal affairs, contracts, and negotiations
    • Ensuring compliance with laws and regulations
    • Handling litigation and legal disputes
    • Advising on risk management and corporate governance
    • Collaborating with internal teams and external legal counsel
    • Overseeing intellectual property protection
    • Developing and implementing legal policies and procedures

Is general counsel an executive? 

Yes, a general counsel is considered an executive in the organization's leadership team. They hold a senior-level position due to their role in guiding legal strategy and decision-making.

Is general counsel C level? 

Yes, general counsel is often considered a C level (C-suite) executive. C level executives are members of the organization's highest leadership team and are typically part of the decision-making process that shapes the company's strategic direction.

Should general counsel report to the CEO or board? 

The reporting structure of the general counsel can vary based on organizational structure and industry norms. In some organizations, the general counsel reports directly to the CEO, providing legal advice at the highest level of management. In others, they may report to the board of directors or another senior executive, such as the chief operating officer (COO).

What is another name for general counsel?

Another name for general counsel is chief legal officer (CLO). Both titles refer to the top legal executive responsible for managing legal affairs within an organization.