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Staying the Course Through
with Milton Cheng, Global Chair, Baker McKenzie

Featured Articles - Issue 9

Ask a Recruiter: Your Questions Answered

In several recent webinars, our recruiters and panelists answered your questions on a variety of topics.


The Expanding Role of the General Counsel


I’ve started noticing lately that there are more chief of staff–type positions. What is the return of investment on these functions as GCs take on expanded roles?

Those chief of staff roles, depending on the company, could be a succession plan for the CEO role or they could be [something assigned to someone who is more of dedicated person who helps manage meetings, pulling data, etc.] anywhere in between.


In the GC role, especially with the more and more expanded scope, you end up being like a right-hand person to the CEO so, conceptually, it feels like you’re a chief of staff to the CEO or the CFO because you’ve built these trusted relationships and they turn to you for advice all the time—whether it has to do with succession planning, business or legal. The key is relationship building. Your CEO trusts you implicitly because you get stuff done and you solve problems in a creative way, and you bring a slightly different thinking and skill set then the CEO brings. That’s what really makes this role the most rewarding and powerful. I know about everything, which makes me a better lawyer, because I know about it upfront.



Switching Industries


Is it OK to take a lesser role to move from a smaller to larger company, from private to public, between industries? What about taking a step back? 

I’d have to think long and hard about taking a step back; it depends what the reason is. I think it’s definitely worth looking at if it’s an industry that’s exciting and growing and something you are really passionate about. You have to be strategic at certain points about what is the right step back.


Once you’ve been in a certain role, it is easier to get that job again even if you take a step back and you have an explanation for it. But don’t stay in the step-down job too long, because then people will perceive you as a number two and not a number one if you ultimately want to be a general counsel.


How can you move in-house from being a litigator?

It’s about branding. If you’ve been an employment litigator for some time, you’re really an employment lawyer who just knows how to litigate, right? So, it’s about how you tell your story. What’s your elevator pitch? Take a step back and look at your job at its core. What have you really been handling from a subject-matter perspective? What have you been working on? Now think about how that relates to being a transactional lawyer or business lawyer. There are a lot of examples of litigators going on to become general counsel of big companies.



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