Career Development

What Does a Deputy General Counsel Do?

Find out what a Deputy General Counsel does, how to get this job, salary information, and what it takes to succeed as a Deputy General Counsel.

The Deputy General Counsel plays an integral role within the legal department of an organization, acting as a senior legal advisor and a close collaborator with the General Counsel. This position involves overseeing a wide range of legal activities, including but not limited to, providing legal guidance on various matters, managing litigation risks, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations, and participating in the development and implementation of corporate policies. The individual in this role supports the General Counsel in the leadership and direction of the legal team, contributing to strategic decision-making processes and often stepping in to lead in the General Counsel’s absence. With a focus on safeguarding the organization’s legal interests and maintaining its operations within the scope of the law, the Deputy General Counsel ensures the legal department fulfills its mission to protect and serve the organization effectively.

Deputy General Counsel Job Duties

  • Provide legal advice and guidance to senior management and other departments on a wide range of legal matters, including but not limited to corporate governance, compliance, and risk management.
  • Draft, review, and negotiate complex contracts and agreements with clients, vendors, and partners to protect the organization’s legal and business interests.
  • Oversee and manage litigation and disputes involving the organization, including developing legal strategies, coordinating with external counsel, and representing the organization in court, if necessary.
  • Develop, implement, and enforce policies and procedures to ensure the organization’s compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and ethical standards.
  • Advise on employment law matters, including drafting employment agreements, managing employee disputes, and ensuring compliance with labor laws and regulations.
  • Coordinate with the intellectual property department to protect the organization’s intellectual property rights, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.
  • Lead the legal aspects of mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, and other corporate transactions, including conducting due diligence, negotiating terms, and drafting transaction documents.
  • Manage the organization’s real estate portfolio from a legal perspective, including negotiating leases, handling zoning issues, and advising on property acquisitions and sales.

Deputy General Counsel Salary & Outlook

Factors influencing a Deputy General Counsel’s salary include industry sector, company size, years of legal experience, especially in relevant legal specialties, and the complexity of legal matters handled. Additionally, negotiation skills, leadership responsibilities, and the financial performance of the employing organization play significant roles.

  • Median Annual Salary: $131,250 ($63.1/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $225,000 ($108.17/hour)

The employment of deputy general counsels is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

This growth is driven by increasing corporate legal complexities, a heightened focus on compliance and risk management, and the expansion of international business operations, necessitating more in-house legal expertise to navigate evolving legal landscapes and protect organizational interests.

Deputy General Counsel Job Requirements

Education: A Deputy General Counsel typically holds a professional degree, such as a Juris Doctor (JD), from an accredited law school, indicating completion of law-related coursework. Majors in fields like political science, economics, or English can be beneficial. Advanced degrees in business administration or legal studies may enhance qualifications. Specialized classes in corporate law, litigation, contract law, and regulatory compliance are essential to prepare for the multifaceted responsibilities of the role.

Experience: Deputy General Counsels typically possess a blend of specialized experience, including hands-on legal practice in relevant fields, and participation in advanced training programs. Their background often encompasses a mix of litigation, corporate governance, compliance, and risk management tasks. On-the-job training, including mentorship under seasoned counsels, and participation in professional workshops or seminars, further refine their expertise. This role demands a dynamic skill set, honed through practical application and continuous learning in a fast-paced legal environment.

Certifications & Licenses: A Deputy General Counsel must possess a valid law license from the state in which they practice. No additional certifications are typically required for this position.

Deputy General Counsel Skills

Contract Negotiation: The Deputy General Counsel is instrumental in guiding discussions to ensure agreements are beneficial while protecting the organization’s legal and financial interests. Achieving a balance between assertiveness and diplomacy is crucial, making certain that contracts are compliant and serve the strategic needs of the business.

Litigation Management: Tasked with the comprehensive oversight of lawsuits and disputes from inception through to resolution, the Deputy General Counsel ensures legal adherence and cost efficiency. Selecting and working with external counsel strategically, along with skilled settlement negotiations, are central to safeguarding the organization’s interests and reducing risks.

Regulatory Compliance: With a deep understanding of relevant laws and regulations at all levels, the Deputy General Counsel ensures the organization operates within legal boundaries and minimizes risk exposure. Developing and enforcing policies and advising senior management on regulatory issues are key functions, facilitating effective navigation through the legal landscape.

Intellectual Property Law: Protecting the organization’s inventions, trademarks, and proprietary information is a critical responsibility. The Deputy General Counsel manages litigation and crafts complex licensing agreements to secure and capitalize on the company’s intellectual assets, adhering to both domestic and international standards.

Corporate Governance: The Deputy General Counsel advises on the legal ramifications of corporate decisions and strategies, ensuring adherence to laws, regulations, and ethical standards. The role involves creating and implementing policies that promote integrity, fairness, and accountability in corporate conduct, in line with legal requirements and company goals.

Risk Assessment: By evaluating legal and regulatory risks associated with current and future operations, the Deputy General Counsel identifies and addresses potential vulnerabilities. A proactive stance in this area helps keep the organization compliant and well-positioned to manage risks effectively.

Deputy General Counsel Work Environment

A Deputy General Counsel typically operates within a corporate office setting, where the environment is designed to foster focus and confidentiality. Their workspace is often equipped with advanced legal software and databases, essential for research and case management. Given the nature of the role, the work hours can extend beyond the typical nine-to-five, especially during periods of high legal activity, though there is a growing trend towards flexibility to accommodate work-life balance.

The dress code leans towards professional attire, reflecting the formal nature of legal proceedings and meetings with clients or company executives. Interaction levels are high, involving collaboration with various departments, external legal teams, and stakeholders, necessitating strong communication skills and a composed demeanor.

The pace can be demanding, with the need to juggle multiple cases and projects. Travel may be required for court appearances, negotiations, or meetings. Despite these demands, companies often support professional development through training and conferences, recognizing the importance of staying current in a rapidly evolving legal landscape.

Advancement Prospects

A Deputy General Counsel can ascend to the role of General Counsel, overseeing an organization’s legal department. This progression requires deepening expertise in corporate law, governance, and compliance issues specific to the industry.

To achieve this, one must excel in managing complex legal projects and leading cross-functional teams, demonstrating the ability to strategize at a high level while mitigating risks.

Engagement in high-stakes negotiations and litigation, coupled with a track record of successful outcomes, positions a Deputy General Counsel as a prime candidate for advancement.

Building a reputation for ethical leadership and decision-making is crucial. This involves not just understanding the letter of the law but how it applies strategically to business objectives.

Finally, contributing to the broader legal community through publications or speaking engagements can highlight a Deputy General Counsel’s expertise and leadership, making them a standout candidate for top legal positions within or outside their current organization.


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