Legal Business Blogs

Comment: the rising stars in-house – bluechip legal teams are bursting with talent

The first Legal Business edition of the year coincides with a major project for us: the second edition of our popular GC Power List, which launched last year. The idea is straightforward: we research in-house and private practice to identify a list of outstanding individuals who demonstrate the influence and rising clout that has come to define the modern in-house profession.

While the first report focused on senior GCs, for the second edition we have taken on the challenge of addressing the best performers coming into their own during their 30s and early 40s – the GCs of tomorrow.

We have also expanded the format across a 48-page report to not only include the individuals highlighted, but analysis and commentary addressing what it takes to get ahead in the in-house sector now that the talent pool and calibre of candidates has increased dramatically over the last ten years. Many of the individuals – drawn from companies including Barclays, GlaxoSmithKline, Prudential and Unilever – will be joining us at a reception held as part of the Legal Business Awards on 13 February.

This report has proved a major undertaking, covering a two-stage research process that cut down the list from an initial run of over 300 nominations and covers dozens of interviews with senior in-house counsel. While this can never be an exact science, we feel the resulting line-up is a representative cross-section of the brightest talent emerging at major UK legal teams.

The group is strikingly more female than the ranks of junior partners at City firms.

Looking at the individuals gives some sense of the changing shape of the profession. For one, the group is strikingly more female than the ranks of junior partners at major City firms – their rough equivalents in private practice. Of the 101 individuals highlighted, 52 are female and that ratio was achieved with absolutely no attempt to increase the composition of ranked women.

The rising stars of the in-house world are also a mobile bunch. Breadth of experience, ideally encompassing stepping outside a narrow legal context, increasingly marks out the CVs of in-house stars. It will be interesting to see how this more commercially-experienced, confidently-cosmopolitan and mixed-gender crowd will interact with advisers in the years ahead. After all, the male domination and working practice at City law firms has changed little from a decade ago.

If that all sounds a bit rah rah for the life in-house, the downside of a career path that promises better flexibility, status and prospects is the tougher demands made of ambitious in-house counsel, at least for those that want to be considered for a limited number of leadership roles. Lawyers are also still expected to maintain a formidable and expanding range of core legal competencies before they get around to building up their commercial, interpersonal and corporate skills.

The good news for the health of the in-house profession is a growing band of talented lawyers want to take up that challenge. We hope we’ve gone some way towards highlighting this group’s achievements and we’ll be looking to bring readers more client-centric projects during 2014.