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General Counsel Job Description

Written by: Evie Courtier
Published on: 16 Jan 2024

General counsel

General Counsel stand as the top legal authority in a company, holding the core responsibility of providing advice on legal issues affecting the business. This General Counsel job description dives into what you can expect from a General Counsel role, the skills required to excel, salary expectations, and the latest General Counsel jobs on TotallyLegal.

  • What is a General Counsel?

    The General Counsel, also known as Corporate Counsel or Chief Legal Officer (CLO), is the highest ranking figure of legal authority within an organisation. The multifaceted role of a General Counsel involves the provision of in-house advice on a range of legal matters within the business, from corporate governance, contracts, regulatory compliance and intellectual property, to employment law and litigation.

    The role of a General Counsel is crucial in helping the organisation navigate legal complexities and make informed commercial decisions that align with the law, while supporting the company's strategic objectives. Despite not having a direct supervisor, the General Counsel may therefore report directly to the CEO or board of directors.

  • What does a General Counsel do?

    General Counsel roles and responsibilities will vary depending on the size of organisation, industry, from Commercial Contracts to Banking, and the legal issues it might be facing, however, as a basis the key duties usually include:

    • Legal advice: providing legal counsel to the company's executives and management on various legal issues affecting the business.
    • Contract negotiation: overseeing the drafting, review, and negotiation of contracts and agreements entered into by the company.
    • Compliance: ensuring that the company complies with relevant laws and regulations in its operations and business activities.
    • Risk management: identifying and managing legal risks that the company may face, and implementing strategies to mitigate those risks.
    • Litigation management: overseeing legal disputes and coordinating with external law firms when necessary to handle litigation matters.
    • Corporate governance: advising on matters related to corporate governance and ensuring compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
    • Intellectual Property: managing and protecting the company's intellectual property, such as trademarks, patents, and copyrights.
    • Employee Relations: providing legal guidance on employment-related matters, including contracts, policies, and disputes.
    • Supervising staff: supervising and delegating work to other In-House Counsel or Legal Assistants.
    • Staying in the loop: keeping up to date with changing legislation (particularly in relation to the interests of the organisation)
    • Due Diligence: overseeing due diligence of mergers and acquisitions and travelling to other offices or courthouses.

  • How to become a General Counsel

    To become a General Counsel, you must be a fully qualified lawyer adhering to the specific regulatory requirements set by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), with a bachelors’ degree (ideally in law, or complete with a law conversion), Legal Practice Course (LPC), training contract and Professional Skills Course (PSC) under your belt.

    You should be an expert in both the fields of law and business, with training and experience gained at a leading law firm or in-house department. General Counsel jobs are highly competitive, with successful candidates presenting the right combination of experience and expertise, strong leadership and management skills, a well-rounded as well as a specialist understanding of the law, and a strong legal network.

    With the role demanding a solid understanding of the inner-workings of a business and how legal issues directly affect commercial decision making, you must ensure that you have in-house experience, exposure to transactional and compliance work, litigation and employment matters, and expertise in corporate, commercial, and/or regulatory law.

  • Key skills of a General Counsel

    The key skills that collectively contribute to the effectiveness of a General Counsel in providing legal leadership, mitigating risks, and contributing to the overall success of the organisation are:

    Broad legal knowledge and expertise:

    • A strong foundation in legal principles and knowledge across various areas of law, including corporate law, contract law, employment law, regulatory compliance, and intellectual property.

    Commercial Acumen:

    • The ability to understand the organisation's business objectives and align legal strategies with overall business goals. This includes a keen understanding of the industry in which the organisation operates.

    Strategic Thinking:

    • The capacity to think strategically and provide legal advice that supports the long-term goals and objectives of the organisation. General Counsels need to anticipate legal issues and provide proactive solutions.

    Risk Management:

    • Proficiency in assessing and managing legal risks. This involves identifying potential legal challenges and developing strategies to mitigate or address them.

    Communication Skills:

    • Strong written and verbal communication skills are essential for conveying complex legal concepts in a clear and understandable manner. General Counsels often communicate with executives, employees, and external stakeholders.

    Negotiation and Contract Drafting:

    • The ability to negotiate effectively and draft contracts that protect the company’s interests while facilitating business transactions.

    Ethical Judgement:

    • Unquestionable integrity and a commitment to ethical conduct. General Counsels are often relied upon to provide ethical guidance and ensure the organisation's compliance with legal and ethical standards.


    • Strong problem-solving skills to address legal challenges creatively and find practical solutions. GCs should be adept at analysing complex issues and proposing viable options.

    Regulatory Compliance:

    • Deep knowledge of relevant laws and regulations applicable to the organisation's industry, and the ability to ensure compliance with these legal requirements.

    Leadership and Management:

    • Leadership skills to manage legal teams effectively and guide them in delivering high-quality legal services. General Counsels often hold leadership positions within organisations and need to inspire confidence and respect.

    Stakeholder Management:

    • Strong interpersonal skills for building relationships with internal stakeholders, such as executives, employees, and board members, as well as external stakeholders, including clients, regulatory authorities, and legal partners.

    Global Perspective:

    • For organisations with international operations, a global perspective is valuable. Understanding the legal nuances of different jurisdictions and managing legal issues on a global scale is essential.

    Financial Literacy:

    • An understanding of financial principles and the ability to assess the financial implications of legal decisions and strategies.


    • The capacity to make informed and timely decisions, often under pressure. General Counsels must assess risks and benefits to guide the organisation in making sound legal choices.

  • How much does a General Counsel earn?

    According to our latest Audience Insight Report, the average General Counsel salary stands at £120,240 - the highest average salary on site, and a 6% uptick on last year’s figures. It’s good to note that this figure naturally adheres to location, industry and the size of the organisation you work for.

    A prosperous profession, 61% of General Counsel’s received a pay rise last year, and 62% secured a bonus. General Counsel also earned the highest bonuses, bringing in 14% of their salary, and 72% experienced flexibility with a hybrid working schedule.

  • General Counsel jobs on TotallyLegal

    TotallyLegal has a range of General Counsel jobs in a variety of organisations in the UK and overseas. Browse and apply for General Counsel vacancies today, or set up a job alert based on your preferences to be notified of the latest roles suited to you.

    Would you like to take part in an interview about your experience as a General Counsel? If so, we would love to hear from you. Get in touch on to find out more.