May 30, 2018 – Legal recruiting has largely been booming this year. Major, Lindsey & Africa (MLA) was recently engaged by the American Red Cross to select a new general counsel to be based out of the non-profit’s Washington, D.C. location. Veteran legal recruiter Deborah Ben-Canaan, a partner and leader of MLA’s in-house practice group, is leading the search, assisted by director Elizabeth Long.
“Given the breadth of diversified legal issues encountered in an organization with the size and scope of the Red Cross, we are seeking candidates with a broad base of sophisticated legal experience gained at a top-tier law firm, in a government role, or in-house,” said Ms. Ben-Canaan. “The successful candidate will be a mission-driven consensus builder who is consultative and collaborative, and who thinks holistically and strategically about courses of action.”
“The new general counsel must have the ability to build strong relationships, be viewed as a trusted accessible advisor and have a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion,” she said.
The American Red Cross is a $2.7 billion non-profit that is part of the world’s largest humanitarian network. “The incoming general counsel will serve as the senior legal, ethics and compliance officer with responsibility for leading both strategic and tactical legal initiatives; providing legal advice to the president and CEO, board of governors and various business unit executives; and managing overall legal risk and compliance for the organization,” said the search firm. The general counsel will manage about 30 people within the in-house legal function, the office of investigations, compliance and ethics of the Red Cross, and will also oversee the work of outside counsel.
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.
Founded in 1982, Major, Lindsey & Africa is legal-focused search firm with more than 25 offices worldwide. It has a track record of general counsel, corporate counsel, partner, associate and law firm management placements. The firm also provides law firms and companies with highly specialized legal professionals on project, interim and temporary-to-permanent hire basis.
Ms. Ben-Canaan has more than 17 years as an executive search consultant and has placed more than 700 senior-level legal leaders in corporate legal departments across the U.S. She has assisted her U.S. clients in making strategic placements overseas with the support of MLA’s EMEA and APAC teams. Ms. Ben-Canaan understands the ins and outs of national legal market having lived on both coasts and completed searches for organizations across the country.
Ms. Long specializes in the recruitment of general counsel, chief compliance officers and other senior attorneys for corporate legal departments as well as not-for-profits and governmental units.
Legal Recruiting On the Rise
Legal recruiting continues to be a hot area for search firms. Lawyers employed by government agencies in particular have been on the move as a result of changes in government administrations, according to Hunt Scanlon Media. 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 require legal services in the U.S. and internationally as global economies expand.
A general counsel, chief counsel or chief legal officer is the chief lawyer of a legal department, usually in a company or a governmental department. In a business, the person holding the position typically reports directly to the CEO, and their duties involve overseeing and identifying the legal issues in all departments and their interrelation, including engineering, design, marketing, sales, distribution, credit, finance, human resources, production, as well as corporate governance and business policy.
Search Firms Stepping Up
Executive search firms have been called in to find new general counsel for various organizations in recent months. Here is a look at a few from the Hunt Scanlon Media news archives:
The Calgary Airport Authority has tapped recruiting firm Pekarsky & Co. to lead its search for a new general counsel. Founding partner Adam Pekarsky is heading the assignment. Reporting to the authority’s VP of finance and the CFO, the general counsel will be responsible for the delivery of internal services and managing the delivery of external legal services to the organization.
Education-focused executive recruiter Academic Search has placed Sandhya Subramanian as general counsel of Dartmouth College. Vice president and senior consultant William Howard led the recruiting process, which included reviewing institutional needs, candidate recruitment, candidate assessment & selection, interviews and overall talent management guidance.
The McAulay Smith Firm recruited Meredith Lackey as senior vice president, corporate secretary and general counsel of Georgia Power. Search firm chairman Al McAulay led the assignment. Ms. Lackey came to Georgia Power from Colonial Pipeline Co., where she served as VP and general counsel since 2012.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media