One of the set-piece debates of day one of Enterprise GC covered a pressing issue for general counsel (GCs) – how to widen their skillset by gaining board experience, as well as practical tips on becoming a non-executive director (NED) in particular. The session, chaired by veteran City columnist James Ashton, featured some seasoned campaigners: Michael Coates, associate GC for Shell UK and a director for a number of Shell companies; Eversheds Sutherland partner Denise Jagger, who has a portfolio of non-executive directorships and trustee roles; Stuart Morton, head of the legal and professional services function at executive search firm Odgers Berndtson; and Rob Webb QC, now a senior adviser at Brunswick and former GC for both British Airways and Rolls-Royce, who has held a number of board roles throughout his career.
Ashton began by asking the panel what advice they would give to a GC who has not yet got a non-executive role. Jagger said the key was to consider a NED role early in your career. ‘Too often I see people wait – whether it is retiring from the GC role or retiring from a law firm partnership – and then start to look.’