The legal department is one of the most important divisions in an organization. Common players in this department are general counsels mandated to advise the executive and general management on public policy, risks, regulations, and ethics, among many others. Owing to these important roles, organizations are normally thorough when vetting candidates who can fill this position. This article will look at common general counsel interview questions, complete with their answers, to help you adequately prepare for and ace your upcoming interview. Let’s get started!
1. Why Are You Interested In This Role?
After spending over 30 years running a law firm, I believe it is time to try something different as I prepare for retirement. I would love to be the lead general counsel of this company and use my extensive experience, skills, and abilities to offer legal guidance and counsel to the board and senior management on matters such as personnel law, procedures, policies, and different laws and regulations. I would also like to meet and interact with people in different positions to strengthen some of the skills I hold dear. I am ready to work towards meeting your expectations if given this chance.
2. What Are The Roles Of A General Counsel?
As a general counsel, I am mandated to:
- Manage this organization’s legal matters
- Advise the board, executive, and senior management on legal and regulatory issues and new and existing laws.
- Understand this entity’s operations and legal documents
- Evaluate and create different draft agreements
- Preserve and maintain all corporate records
- Work closely with the external counsel to offer this company the best legal services
- Manage the organization’s intellectual property
- Handle different statutory filings
- Create corporate decisions and act directives.
3. What Are The Qualities That One Needs To Succeed In This Role?
To thrive as a general counsel, one should have excellent verbal and written communication skills, an in-depth understanding of business confidentiality and sensitivities, strategic thinking abilities, and exceptional legal knowledge. Other qualities include a commitment to serving the organization’s best interests, high integrity levels, and the ability to clearly and concisely present complex legal issues. I am happy to report that I possess all these and many other qualities and will therefore be in a better position to succeed in this job if given a chance.
4. Describe Your Daily Routine As A General Counsel
Once I get to work, my daily routine revolves around meeting with the board, executives, and senior management to advise them on several legal matters; extensively researching different legal issues; reviewing the company’s litigation strategy in regard to legal actions; examining and drafting agreements, managing all the legal matters of the organization, taking care of statutory filings, preserving corporate records, working closely with external counsel on different assignments and managing the entity’s intellectual property.
5. Why Do You Think You Are The Most Suitable Candidate For This Role?
This is my sixteenth year as a lawyer and tenth as a general counsel. I have participated in and even led legal departments of different establishments, ranging from mid-range to large entities. Therefore, I have the requisite skills, experience, and abilities needed to succeed in this role. I also possess several qualities, such as strategic thinking, risk mitigation, management, and presentation of legal concepts, that I believe will be useful in this role.
6. What Is The Main Challenge You Foresee In This Role?
I am happy that I have gone through your policies, workplace code of conduct, work arrangements, and schedules, which I must mention is pretty satisfactory. I don’t, therefore, foresee a major challenge, given that most of the things that gave me a hard time in my former roles have been addressed here. I should perhaps mention that this will be my first time working for a billion-dollar company, which isn’t a major challenge given that I have the extensive experience and skills required to succeed here.
7. How Do You Normally Prioritize And Manage Your Workload In This Job?
As a general counsel, I have to prioritize and manage my workload to ensure everything gets done on time and that all spontaneous legal issues are addressed accordingly. I break down my workload by listing tasks based on their urgency and importance and then create a schedule for properly addressing them. I delegate others to other legal department members if possible and offer the necessary support and resources. I also have several project management tools I normally use to stay organized and complete tasks within budget and on time.
8. What Would You Do If You Were Faced With A Difficult Ethical Decision?
I have faced several ethical decisions throughout my career, first as a lawyer and, recently, as a general counsel. I take ethical decision-making seriously since I always strive to maintain high ethical standards. I would weigh my options, pick the most ethical one, and then offer solid reasons for my choice. I am ready to report to the proper authorities if one forces me to go against the profession’s and organization’s moral code and ethics. I am happy to report that I will do anything possible to protect the organization’s interests.
9. How Will You Ensure That Our Organization Remains Compliant With Different Laws And Regulations?
One of my main roles as a general counsel is to ensure that the company complies with different laws and regulations, a task I have always done to the best of my ability. I intend to maintain an updated database of all relevant laws and regulations, regularly lead awareness and training sessions for employees to help them understand their legal obligations, and regularly review and update policies for better compliance. I will also identify non-compliance areas through regular assessments and audits and collaborate with other legal department members to develop solid strategies for addressing them.
10. How Would You Offer Legal Advice To A Non-Legal Stakeholder?
My job involves working with different people and departments, including non-legal stakeholders. I would employ listening, communication, and collaboration skills to offer solid advice by paying attention to what they say, reviewing any materials they may have, and conducting extensive research on the relevant laws and regulations. I would then schedule a meeting and offer them clear and concise legal advice while avoiding legal jargon as much as possible to enhance understanding. Finally, I would allow them to ask for clarifications, if any, and answer their questions.
11. Walk Us Through How You Normally Manage Legal Risks Within Organizations
Every general counsel knows and appreciates the importance of legal risk management. I normally manage legal risks by regularly reviewing and assessing them before developing the right mitigation strategies. Additionally, I collaborate with the legal or risk department to create clear legal risk management policies and protocols, including and not limited to due diligence procedures and risk assessments. Lastly, I regularly train employees and organize awareness campaigns to ensure everyone in the office understands why and how to manage legal risks.
12. How Do You Normally Stay Updated On Different Legal Developments And Changes?
As a general counsel, I must stay updated on legal changes and developments by regularly attending legal seminars and conferences, participating in training development programs, undertaking at least one professional development course a year, and subscribing to different law-related newsletters and publications. I have also built a solid network of peers and colleagues with whom I discuss legal issues and trends, ensuring that I am not left behind regarding legal developments.
13. How Do You Deal With Difficult Clients?
I meet all types of clients in my job, including difficult and demanding ones. After 15 years of practicing law, I have discovered that the best way to handle a difficult client is to employ effective conflict resolution and communication skills. I generally let them voice their opinions or concerns while listening attentively before collaborating with them to understand their needs better and develop a plan to address their concerns. Active listening and effective communication have always helped me build trust and develop effective working relations with clients.
14. We Have An External Legal Counsel. How Do You Intend To Manage That Relationship?
Firms prefer having or retaining external legal counsel for the best legal services. I will maintain an excellent relationship by establishing clear guidelines and expectations for the counsel, reviewing their work, offering regular feedback, and ensuring total awareness of the organization’s goals and objectives. I will also regularly communicate and collaborate with them to ensure legal strategy and goals alignment.
15. Walk Us Through How You Will Manage Conflicts Of Interest Within This Organization
In my former role, I found myself in several such situations, which equipped me with effective conflict management strategies. I will establish conflict of interest protocols and policies, such as conflict identification and management rules, or review the existing ones; train employees on why they need to avoid conflicts of interest and how to avoid them; lead awareness campaigns and collaborate with the top-most leadership to anticipate potential conflicts and find means of addressing or mitigating them for the benefit of the organization.
16. Walk Us Through How You Normally Prioritize Legal Matters
Prioritization is an important aspect of my job, given that some matters carry more weight than others. I normally liaise with senior-most executives and the general leadership of the firm to establish the organization’s legal services goals and priorities and regularly assess and review the organization’s legal needs. I also consider issues such as the legal complexity of the issue and their potential impacts on the organization before deciding on the one to tackle first. I generally deal with weightier and most urgent issues first to ensure they do not negatively impact the organization.
17. Can You Manage Legal Projects With Tight Deadlines?
I am more than capable of managing legal projects with tight deadlines owing to the experience, skills, and abilities I have obtained in the past years. I normally establish clear milestones and objectives at the start of the project, effectively allocate resources and then track progress using an effective project management tool. I also mobilize other team members, ensure that they are aware of their different roles and responsibilities, and offer ongoing support and guidance to ensure the timely execution of the project.
18. How Would You Go About Negotiating A Complex Legal Agreement?
I would employ the negotiation skills and understanding of legal issues and complexities I have obtained over the years to go about a complex legal agreement. I would extensively research the scheduled agreement to identify potential legal issues before developing a clear-cut negotiation strategy. Additionally, I would work closely with the external legal counsel and internal stakeholders to align the negotiation strategy with the goals and objectives of the organization. I would also maintain open communication throughout the negotiation process to ensure that we arrive at a mutually beneficial solution.
19. Walk Us Through How You Prioritized And Managed Legal Expenditures In Your Former Workplaces
It is important that a general counsel properly manages legal expenditures, given that they can quickly pile up and weigh heavily on the organization. I used to collaborate with different stakeholders to create an efficient budget and set clear expectations regarding the required legal services. I would also regularly review invoices and track daily and periodic spending to ensure the companies stayed on budget while receiving value for money. Lastly, I helped manage costs by exploring alternatives such as contingency and fixed fees.
20. How Would You Go About Explaining Legal Issues To Clients Not Well Acquainted With The Law?
I am always prepared for different types of people since although my legal department interactions are with legally-able parties, I occasionally have to meet with and explain legal concepts to people who are not well-learned on the law. I would use simple and clear language, offer examples to enhance understanding, and summarize my points for faster reception. I would also give them a chance to ask questions and offer clarifications.
21. How Will You Ensure All Our Departments Meet The Organization’s Legal Obligations?
I intend to coordinate with other stakeholders to ensure this organization’s departments and functions adhere to its legal obligations. I will develop clear procedures and policies in close collaboration with this establishment’s senior leadership and then integrate them into all organizational functions. Additionally, I will regularly arrange and lead employee training and awareness campaigns to ensure that everyone understands their legal obligations and what can happen in case of non-compliance. Lastly, I will communicate clearly and collaborate with all the organization’s departments for faster identification and address of legal issues.
22. How Would You Manage A Crisis Or Emergency Situation?
I normally use my creative and strategic thinking skills and ability to work well under pressure whenever I encounter a crisis or emergency. I would immediately act by activating the crisis management plan, which dictates notifying executive leadership, informing and working closely with the legal counsel, and leading an internal investigation. I would also inform employees of the situation and assure them that I am doing everything possible to control or address it. I am glad that I have successfully managed several crises before.
23. How Do You Normally Handle Sensitive Information In This Job?
As a general counsel, I have to manage sensitive information such as trade secrets and confidential legal matters, a task I do not take lightly. To protect such information, I normally establish clear sensitive data handling protocols and collaborate with other departments, such as HR and IT, to ensure that all employees understand the importance of data protection. Additionally, I enforce data protection by allowing only authorized persons to access confidential information, ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory requirements by regularly reviewing and updating policies and implementing stringent security measures.
24. How Would You Handle A Conflict Between Business Objectives And Legal Requirements?
My main role as a general counsel is to advise the organization on legal matters and ensure regulatory compliance to prevent heavy repercussions from different parties. However, if there is a conflict between business objectives and legal requirements, I would keep an open mind and engage the organization’s senior leadership to evaluate the risks and identify potential solutions. I would then ensure that the entity settles on one that balances business objectives achievement with legal compliance.
25. What Made You Pursue A Career In Law?
I knew I would be a lawyer from a relatively young age. I was always fascinated by the concepts of fairness and justice, some of the core elements of the law. I would stand up for other children getting bullied in school and excellently argue my case to teachers and parents whenever I knew I was on the right. When joining Clubs and Societies in high school, I joined the Law Club and immediately knew that a career in law was imminent. It didn’t come as a surprise when I majored in Law in College.
We have covered a few questions that can help you showcase your legal expertise, strategic thinking abilities, communication skills, and in-depth understanding of your role if answered well. Take time to brainstorm your answers, using our suggestions as a guide, and prepare for your upcoming interview. We wish you all the best!