December 13, 2022 – Executive search firm Steven John & Associates has helped to place Jeffrey Hoelsken as the new general counsel for Save the Redwoods League, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco. Mr. Hoelsken was formerly senior counsel for Paragon Legal, a legal services firm that provides interim in-house counsel to corporate legal departments, also in San Francisco.
“I am thrilled to welcome Jeff Hoelsken to the League as our general counsel whose leadership and expertise will be essential in the years to come,” said Save the Redwoods League president and CEO Sam Hodder. “Jeff has a passion for forest conservation, and he comes to us with a wide range of experience in legal and business management for both non-profit and for-profit organizations. In addition to the experience and skills he brings in his legal work, he has a high degree of integrity, empathy, strong communication skills, and a focus on being a collaborative thought partner to those with whom he works. I am excited about what he will bring to the role of general counsel and to the organization at large.”
Mr. Hoelsken is responsible for protecting the League’s legal interests and maintaining its operations. He provides strategic counsel to the board of directors, senior management, and staff. He also acts as liaison with outside counsel in real estate transactions, litigation, and organizational governance.
“I could not be more excited about joining Save the Redwoods League as its general counsel,” said Mr. Hoelsken. “It is an honor to work with such a dedicated and inspired group of professionals, and to support the organization’s critical mission of protecting, restoring, and connecting people to the peace and beauty of redwood forests.”
Mr. Hoelsken brings more than 20 years of legal expertise to his new role. Prior to Paragon Legal, he was director of operations and in-house counsel at Warrior Canine Connection, a multi-state non-profit service dog organization focused on veterans with disabilities. His previous roles have included litigating complex construction and environmental cases, acting as general counsel in the renewable energy sector for Foundation Windpower and Solar Universe, and serving as executive director of Sunrise Horse Rescue.
Mr. Hoelsken is a graduate of the University of California Hastings College of the Law where he received his law degree and was an associate editor on the West-Northwest Journal of Environmental Law and Policy. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied rhetoric and conservation and resource studies.
Inside the High Demand for General Counsel Leaders
The legal and compliance market is booming. The number of in-house lawyers and law firm partners with aspirations of becoming a general counsel is at an all-time high. Unfortunately, landing the position is a challenge. Every search has specific criteria established by the executive leadership team and board which must be met. Some of the criteria could include specific industry experience or business knowledge, a background in public company securities and governance, as well as expertise in regulatory, compliance, litigation, M&A, employment/labor law, intellectual property, government relations, leadership, career track record, law firm training, law school ranking, and the list goes on, according to Robert Barker, co-founder and managing partner of BarkerGilmore, which specializes in building corporate legal and compliance teams.
“Keep in mind cultural fit and soft skills which cannot be found on the resume are equally important,” he said. “And diversity can play a major factor in the CEO and board’s final decision. Most are using the general counsel position as a means of adding diversity to the executive leadership team,” he added. The demand for excellence is understandable as the general counsel plays such a critical role. One wrong answer or move during the interview process can lead to immediate disqualification. “Even after an offer is made, any red flag demonstrating a lack of judgment or ethics discovered during the background investigation will lead to a retraction,” said Mr. Barker.
Founded in 1918, Save the Redwoods League’s mission is to protect and restore California redwoods and connect people to the peace and beauty of redwood forests. The League protects redwoods by purchasing redwood forests and the surrounding land needed to nurture them. The non-profit restores redwood forests by innovating science and technology that can improve stewardship and accelerate forest regeneration. And by protecting more than 200,000 acres and helping to create 66 redwood parks and reserves, Save the Redwoods builds connections among people and the redwood forests. The League’s work is grounded in the principles of conservation biology, research, and improving our collective understanding and appreciation of the redwoods.
Steven John & Associates is a boutique executive search and talent advisory firm focused on senior in-house legal leaders and their organizations. The firm partners with client organizations to attract, retain, and develop chief legal officers, general counsel, chief compliance officers, divisional general counsel, and other senior subject matter experts within corporate legal departments. Steven John & Associates specializes in roles within the legal profession rather than on a single industry vertical. Its clients are diverse and include private and public companies, large non-profits, private philanthropies, and academic institutions. The organizations that the firm works with have offices throughout the U.S., and its typical searches are national in scope.
After several years with both a leading attorney search consultancy as well as one of the world’s leading executive search firms, Mr. John launched Steven John & Associates to serve organizations in need of expert legal talent. He brings a wealth of experience in the recruitment of attorneys from a wide range of disciplines. That experience reflects a broad range of industries and includes both private and public companies as well as academic and not-for-profit institutions. In addition to his general counsel search practice, Mr. John has developed particular expertise in the recruitment of attorneys in real estate, intellectual property, higher education law, social justice, and regulatory compliance in a number of highly regulated industries.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media