October 13, 2020 – Legal recruiting generally has been booming this year. According to Hunt Scanlon Media, lawyers employed by government agencies in particular have been on the move as a result of changes in government administrations. Employment of lawyers is projected to grow 10 percent through 2022. Demand for legal work is expected to be robust as individuals, businesses, and all levels of government will require legal services in the U.S. and internationally as global economies expand.
In addition, the responsibilities of general counsel have expanded in recent years and demand for them has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. One recent case in point: John Gilmore, co-founder and managing partner of BarkerGilmore, recently recruited Luis Machado as the new general counsel and corporate secretary of TopBuild Corp.
“We are pleased to welcome Luis to TopBuild,” said CEO Jerry Volas. “He brings more than 20 years of experience leading legal and compliance functions across a wide range of industries. He is a terrific addition to our senior leadership team.”
Mr. Machado previously served as vice president, general counsel and secretary for CTS Corp., a global leader in the design and manufacturing of sensors, actuators and electronic components. He has also served in senior corporate legal positions at L Brands, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. and Diversey Inc. He began his practice at the Altheimer & Gray law firm in Chicago.
TopBuild Corp., a Fortune 1000 company headquartered in Daytona Beach, FL, is a installer and distributor of insulation and building material products to the U.S. construction industry. The company provides insulation and building material services nationwide through TruTeam, which has close to 200 branches, and through Service Partners which distributes insulation and building material products from over 75 branches.
Finding General Counsels
To assist in its search efforts, BarkerGilmore utilizes an advisory board of 12 former general counsel and chief compliance officers. This team, many of whom have served in Fortune 500 companies, is charged with providing advisory and leadership development services, complementing the firm’s core recruiting business. These consultants offer the search firm’s clients access to experience that can help them to optimize their organizations and accelerate profits.
General Counsel: A New Pathway to CEO
The general counsel role has been vital for companies maintaining an international presence. “The role and stature of the general counsel position has expanded globally,” said Paul Williams, a partner in MLA’s Chicago office.
With over three decades of experience in executive search, Mr. Gilmore has developed deep relationships with general counsel and C-suite leaders across the country. With an institutional understanding of how in-house legal and compliance departments function most effectively, Mr. Gilmore has, according to clients and colleagues, earned a reputation as one of the top executive search consultants for general counsel and chief compliance officer placement.
Mr. Gilmore recently sit down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss the rising call for general counsels and how the role has gained in importance in recent months.
John, how has the general counsel role changed alongside the COVID-19 pandemic?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, general counsels and their law departments have risen to the challenge and continued to face the high-water mark for business intensity. Trained for crisis management, they are relied on now more than ever by CEOs and boards for their strategic insights, finely tuned leadership skills and ability to influence others. In addition to determining the best path forward, counseling on how and when messages should be delivered internally and externally is of equal importance. First and foremost, considerations focused on employee and customer safety: putting plans in place to prevent the spread of the virus and establishing what actions to take when someone tests positive. The second consideration was the daunting task of continuing business operations while ensuring compliance with rapidly changing regulations unique to each state of operation. General counsels have had to roll up their sleeves, shore up liquidity, and create a lifeline for businesses by raising capital and analyzing and renegotiating debt covenants to infuse and/or retain cash.
Has this expanded the general counsel role?
Some general counsels have taken a leadership role within the human resources department, managing diversity and inclusion policies and initiatives ensuring they reflect the company’s commitment to social justice. With all of these responsibilities remaining on general counsels’ plates, the focus has now turned to structurally reengineering the business to modernize the employee and customer experience while running as lean as possible. general counsels remain optimistic about businesses bouncing back in a meaningful way, and the silver lining will be greater equality for all, more efficient and cost-effective operations, and consequently, greater shareholder value. Every day, I have the privilege of speaking with these humble super-humans, and rarely is compensation a priority. Their passion, ability to tackle the most complex challenges, and commitment to leading others on a journey to higher ground is infectious. No matter the level of compensation, general counsels have proven time and time again to be invaluable.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, general counsels and their law departments have risen to the challenge and continued to face the high-water mark for business intensity.”
What is the current demand for general counsels?
Excellent! We have experienced a significant rise in 2020 for general counsel searches. The majority of searches have resulted from the need to replace the existing general counsels due to retirement, leaving for another company, or being let go for inability to serve as a strategic advisor. With the stock market performing so well and the heavy load or responsibilities placed on the general counsel, many senior-level general counsels have elected to retire and let the next generation take over. Also, since general counsels have done such a great job with succession planning, they are confident in leaving the company and law department in good hands. We also have seen a rise in emerging growth companies seeking to hire their first general counsel.
Have you seen more lawyers in recent years take to the career path of serving as a general counsel rather than working for a law firm?
Many law firm partners would love the opportunity to move into a general counsel role, especially of a publicly traded company. As everyone is aware, it is not an easy move to make since competition is fierce and so many CEOs and boards expect to see proven in-house experience. In-house law departments have grown over the past several years and the career path has become better defined. Most law departments look for mid-level business-minded law firm associates to join in specialist roles and broaden their legal experience from there. When hiring more senior level in-house roles, especially with general counsel succession in mind, ideal candidates have a combination of law firm and in-house experience
Have you seen clients delaying searches or have they been moving on with business?
We have only had a few searches put on hold by companies in those industries significantly impacted by the virus. Video interviewing has streamlined the interview process and the time to hire has been shortened by a third or more. Prior to 2020, scheduling meetings with the executive team and/or board was always a challenge and caused the hiring process to be longer than it should be. Not to mention, it was not easy for candidates to hop on planes and/or be out of contact with current employers for day-long interviews.
Looking ahead, how do you see the rest of the year playing out in regards to the economy and hiring?
General counsels have proven their worth and companies cannot function without a business-minded, strategic general counsel. Hiring should not slow down at the leadership level. Some lower level positions could be impacted if the stock market takes a major dip. In any case, BarkerGilmore has been fortunate to surpass performance goals for the year and we are very optimistic the recovery in 2021 will cause search activity to increase further.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media