Interview

17 General Counsel Interview Questions and Answers

Learn what skills and qualities interviewers are looking for from a general counsel, what questions you can expect, and how you should go about answering them.

As the title suggests, general counsels are the top lawyers in an organization. They provide legal advice to their company’s executives and may also be involved in drafting and negotiating contracts. They may also be involved in other legal matters such as regulatory compliance and intellectual property.

In order to be a successful general counsel, you need to be able to think on your feet and be able to provide sound legal advice quickly. You’ll also need to be able to anticipate problems and be proactive in finding solutions. To help you prepare for your interview, we’ve gathered some of the most common questions general counsels are asked and provided sample answers.

Are you comfortable representing the company in court?

This question is a good way to assess your litigation experience. If you have no courtroom experience, the interviewer may ask more questions about how comfortable you are with representing clients in court and what kind of cases you’ve handled.

Example: “I’m very comfortable representing my company in court. In fact, I’ve been doing it for five years now. My first job out of law school was as an associate at a small firm that mostly did criminal defense work. I learned a lot from that experience, including how to prepare witnesses and cross-examine them on the stand. When I moved to my current position, I brought those skills with me.”

What are some of the most important qualities for a successful general counsel?

This question is an opportunity to show the interviewer that you have a strong understanding of what it takes to be successful in this role. You can answer this question by listing several qualities and explaining why they are important for general counsels.

Example: “I believe some of the most important qualities for a successful general counsel include integrity, communication skills, problem-solving abilities and leadership skills. A general counsel needs to be honest with their team members and clients at all times because trust is essential in this position. I also think effective general counsels need excellent communication skills so they can clearly explain legal matters to others. Strong problem-solving skills are important because general counsels often face challenging situations where they need to find solutions quickly. Finally, I think general counsels should have strong leadership skills because they oversee a large department.”

How would you handle a situation where a company employee was violating company policies?

This question can help interviewers understand how you apply your legal knowledge to real-world situations. In your answer, try to describe a situation where you used your critical thinking skills and applied the law to solve a problem.

Example: “In my previous role as general counsel for a small company, I had an employee who was violating our social media policy by posting inappropriate comments on their personal account. The employee didn’t realize that they were representing the company when they made these posts. After talking with them about the issue, we decided that the best solution would be for them to delete the post and create a new one apologizing for their actions. This helped us avoid any negative press while still maintaining our policies.”

What is your experience with developing and implementing legal policies?

General counsels are responsible for creating and implementing company policies. They also ensure that employees understand the policies and procedures of their organization. Your answer should show the interviewer your experience with this responsibility. You can describe a situation where you developed or revised a policy.

Example: “In my previous role, I was in charge of developing and revising all legal policies. This included everything from employee handbooks to contracts. I worked closely with human resources and other departments to make sure our policies were clear and easy to follow. We held regular meetings to discuss new policies and revise existing ones.”

Provide an example of a time when you used your negotiation skills to achieve a successful outcome.

General counsels often need to negotiate with other departments or outside parties. An interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your negotiation skills and how you apply them in the workplace. When preparing for an answer, think of a time when you successfully negotiated something on behalf of your company.

Example: “At my previous job, I had to negotiate with our CEO over some legal issues that arose. The CEO wanted to settle out of court, but I advised him that we should go through with the lawsuit because it would be cheaper than settling. He agreed, and we won the case. This saved the company thousands of dollars.”

If hired, what would be your top priorities as general counsel?

This question is an opportunity to show the interviewer that you have a plan for how you would approach your job. Your answer should include two or three things you would focus on in your first few months as general counsel, such as improving communication between departments and streamlining processes.

Example: “My top priorities as general counsel would be to improve internal communications and implement more efficient legal processes. I believe these are essential to ensuring the company’s compliance with all relevant laws and regulations. In my first month, I would hold a meeting with all department heads to introduce myself and discuss what they do. Then, I would meet with each team of attorneys to learn about their cases and develop a system for sharing information among teams.”

What would you do if you discovered that senior management was violating company policies?

This question can help interviewers assess your integrity and willingness to report violations. In your answer, explain how you would handle the situation by emphasizing your commitment to upholding company policies.

Example: “If I discovered that senior management was violating company policies, I would first meet with them to discuss the issue. If they continued to violate company policy after our meeting, I would document the violation and inform my supervisor of the situation. My supervisor and I would then work together to decide on an appropriate course of action. We may choose to implement a formal warning or even terminate their employment if it’s warranted.”

How well do you know current laws and regulations that impact your industry?

General counsels need to be knowledgeable about the laws and regulations that affect their company. This question helps employers determine how much you know about your industry’s legal landscape. Use examples from your experience to show that you can apply this knowledge to help your organization stay compliant with current legislation.

Example: “I have a degree in law, so I am very familiar with many of the laws and regulations that impact my industry. For example, I know that there are several federal laws that protect consumers’ privacy online. As a result, I make sure all of our websites and apps comply with these regulations. In addition, I also ensure that we’re following state-level regulations for data protection.”

Do you have experience working with outside attorneys?

This question can help interviewers understand your experience working with outside counsel and how you manage those relationships. You can use this opportunity to highlight any specific skills or experiences that helped you work effectively with an outside attorney.

Example: “I have worked with several outside attorneys in my previous role as general counsel, including a few different law firms. I find it helpful to meet with outside counsel regularly to discuss the status of cases and ensure we’re all on the same page. In one instance, I met with an outside attorney who was handling a case for our company. The attorney informed me they were going to need more time to complete their investigation, which would delay the trial date. I spoke with the client about the situation and explained why there would be a delay. They understood and appreciated that I kept them updated throughout the process.”

When negotiating a contract, what is your process for evaluating the terms and conditions?

General counsels often negotiate contracts with other companies or individuals. An interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your negotiation skills and how you approach a contract. In your answer, describe the steps you take when evaluating terms and conditions in a contract. You can also mention any specific tools or resources that help you evaluate contracts.

Example: “I always start by reading through the entire contract. I then make notes of anything that stands out to me as unusual or unclear. After that, I’ll call my client or company representative to discuss what I noticed. They usually have insight into why certain terms are included in the contract. If there is still something I don’t understand after speaking with them, I will reach out to an expert who can explain it to me.”

We want to improve our compliance with industry standards. What is your process for monitoring compliance?

General counsels are responsible for ensuring their company complies with industry standards. This question helps the interviewer understand your process for monitoring compliance and how you ensure that your organization is in line with regulations. Use examples from your experience to describe how you monitor compliance and what steps you take to make sure your organization stays compliant.

Example: “I have a system of checks and balances in place to help me monitor compliance. I regularly review our policies and procedures to ensure they’re up-to-date and reflect current laws and regulations. I also conduct regular training sessions for employees on important topics like privacy, data security and discrimination. These trainings help me stay informed about any changes to legislation or new developments in these areas.”

Describe your process for reviewing legal documents and ensuring accuracy.

Interviewers may ask this question to learn more about your attention to detail and how you ensure that the company’s legal documents are accurate. To answer, think of a time when you reviewed important documents for accuracy and explain what steps you took to make sure they were correct.

Example: “I review all legal documents before sending them out to my team or clients. I first read through each document carefully to look for any errors. If I find something that seems incorrect, I will check with my supervisor to see if there is an alternate way to interpret it. After confirming the meaning, I will then have someone else proofread the document to make sure everything is correct.”

What makes you stand out from other candidates for this position?

Employers ask this question to learn more about your qualifications and how you can contribute to their company. Before your interview, make a list of the skills and experiences that make you an ideal candidate for general counsel. Focus on highlighting your relevant experience and soft skills.

Example: “I have extensive legal knowledge and am passionate about helping others. I also understand the importance of upholding ethical standards in my work. In my previous role as general counsel at ABC Company, I helped create a code of conduct for employees to follow. This led to fewer conflicts between staff members and improved our overall workplace culture. As a result, we saw higher employee satisfaction rates and better productivity.”

Which industries do you have the most experience in?

This question is a great way for the interviewer to learn more about your background and experience. It’s also an opportunity for you to show how your previous work has prepared you for this role. When answering, it can be helpful to mention industries that are similar to the one you’re interviewing for.

Example: “I have the most experience in financial services, but I’ve also worked with tech companies and startups. My time working at these organizations has given me valuable insight into what makes them successful and helped me develop my skills as a general counsel.”

What do you think is the most important role of general counsel?

This question is an opportunity to show your knowledge of the role general counsel plays in a company. It also gives you the chance to explain how you would approach this role if you were hired for the position.

Example: “I think that the most important role of general counsel is to ensure that the company’s legal matters are handled properly and efficiently. This means I would make sure all employees understand their rights, responsibilities and liabilities as outlined by law. I would also be responsible for ensuring compliance with any relevant legislation or regulations. Finally, I would work with other departments to develop policies and procedures that protect the company from risk.”

How often do you recommend changes to company policies?

The interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your decision-making process and how often you recommend changes. Your answer should include a specific example of when you recommended policy changes, the type of change you made and the result of implementing that change.

Example: “In my current role as general counsel for a large corporation, I’ve had several opportunities to make recommendations for company policies. For instance, last year we hired a new CEO who wanted to implement some major changes to our hiring practices. The CEO believed that we were spending too much time interviewing candidates with no intention of hiring them. He asked me to review our hiring procedures and determine if there was a way to streamline the process while still maintaining quality hires. After researching other companies’ hiring processes, I determined that we could reduce the number of interviews by one without compromising quality. We implemented the new hiring procedure and saw an increase in qualified applicants.”

There is a lawsuit against the company. What is your process for handling the situation?

This question is a great way to see how the candidate handles conflict. It also shows you what their priorities are when it comes to handling legal matters. Your answer should show that you understand the importance of following procedures and maintaining company confidentiality.

Example: “I would first meet with the CEO or other senior management to discuss the situation. I would then gather all relevant information about the case, including any documents or emails related to the lawsuit. After this, I would hold a meeting with the entire team involved in the lawsuit to explain our process for resolving the issue. This helps maintain confidentiality while allowing everyone to know what’s going on.

After gathering all the facts, I would determine whether we have grounds for a legitimate claim. If so, I would work with the appropriate department to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.”

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