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Companies hiring more female general counsel, report says

Firms increasingly looking for in-house experience, which favors women, according to research


Corporate Secretary | June 13, 2017



The Corporate Secretary​ article, “Companies hiring more female general counsel, report says,” featured our study, "More ​Gender Diversity​ ​Among General Counsels​​," and quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Cynthia Dow.

New research shows more women are being appointed as top lawyers at big US companies – and professionals say a virtuous circle is developing that may strengthen the trend.

According to recruitment firm Russell Reynolds Associates, Fortune 500 companies last year filled 35 percent of their open general counsel positions with female candidates, up from 30 percent in 2015 and 24 percent in 2012.

The even better news?’ the authors of the report write. ‘The way women are hired for the [general counsel] role appears to be changing – a development that could accelerate the number of women leading legal departments in the years to come.’ Traditionally, they say, more women have been promoted to the general counsel job from inside a company. Since 2014, however, there has been a marked shift such that last year as many women were hired as general counsel from external sources as those who were appointed internally, according to the report.​

At the same time, the nation’s largest companies are increasingly hiring general counsel candidates with previous in-house experience, the research finds. Before 2014, 67 percent of the external candidates hired for Fortune 500 general counsel jobs had an in-house background; that figure has now risen to 83 percent.

This change to fishing more heavily for in-house counsel – both internally and externally – explains the increase in the proportion of women being hired, according to Cynthia Dow, who leads the legal officers practice at Russell Reynolds. ‘The preferred sources of general counsel appointees are now lining up with where women lawyers have tended to be successful,’ she tells Corporate Secretary.

To read the full article​, click here.

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Companies hiring more female general counsel, report says