Leadership transitions put employees on edge, and for good reason: a new chief executive officer means that everyone in the company is once again auditioning for their job. While all members of the C-suite should expect some level of scrutiny, surviving a chief executive transition can be difficult for a general counsel due to the interdependent nature of the roles of GC and CEO.
As the organization’s chief lawyer the GC represents the company itself, not any particular employee or even corporate officer. Ultimately, however, an institution acts through its officers, so the GC’s most important client relationship is with the company’s most important officer, the CEO. In recent years, the GC role has evolved to that of business strategist and consigliore to the CEO, meaning rapport and trust are of paramount importance in this relationship. The retention or selection of the company’s top lawyer may come down to the personal choice of a new chief executive. Indeed, it is no surprise that GCs are one of the more common positions replaced by a new CEO.
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