Five Strategies to Obtaining a New In-House Counsel Role in 2024

By Sarah Sullivan

February 22, 2024

career growth, winning strategy, obtaining a new in-house counsel role concept

Sarah Sullivan is a Managing Director and Chair of the Women & Diversity Practice at BarkerGilmore. She has a proven track record of recruiting legal and compliance leaders and is regularly retained on large, confidential general counsel, deputy general counsel, and chief compliance officer engagements.

The process of setting goals and reflecting on our aspirations is valuable; and for many in-house counsel, obtaining a promotion or new position is top of mind for 2024. Here are five strategies to consider if you are in-house counsel looking for a new professional opportunity — whether that’s becoming a general counsel or obtaining another senior-level in-house role.

    1. Sharing your goals with management: Research shows that one in four general counsel successors do not know they are a successor, and women are less likely to know their successor status than men. If you seek a promotion at your current organization, it is vital to communicate your career goals to management. Even if you learn that succession is not an option in your current company, knowledge is power that you can use to inform your future career decisions.


    1. Getting on the radar of executive recruiters: A recent BarkerGilmore survey found that 29% of general counsel learned about their role through an executive recruiter. A large part of what executive recruiters do is to develop relationships with potential talent. Do not be afraid to contact multiple (reputable) search firms, share your resume, and introduce yourself. The search firm will let you know if your ambitions are realistic; and if they aren’t, they can suggest the skills you need to develop. You also need to optimize your LinkedIn profile so that search consultants who have opportunities can find you. Making sure that your profile is current and includes your work experience, practice areas, and specialties is crucial.


    1. Seeking professional development opportunities and exposure: Expanding your skill set and getting exposure with senior management and board members is essential for promotion opportunities and will serve you well in roles outside of your organization. Consider seeking an expanded scope of responsibility, increased board exposure, leadership training, and stretch assignments.


    1. Obtaining an executive coach: Forty-three percent of promoted general counsel receive executive coaching prior to their promotion. Working with a leadership development coach is an investment in yourself and your future. There are numerous benefits of working with a coach. Coaches can help individuals improve their executive presence, self-confidence and enhance their leadership skills and emotional intelligence. They can also increase counsel’s productivity, working individually and collaborating with others on visioning and strategic planning. Finally, coaches can provide actionable advice to address unique issues faced by women and minorities. Your coaching relationship can continue into your new position and accelerate your onboarding, which is especially critical in a new general counsel role.


  1. Creating a marketing plan: As you look for a new role, make sure that you can confidently talk about your areas of expertise and the specific business needs you can address, your major accomplishments, if and where you are willing to relocate, and your elevator pitch. You should have tangible examples of the value you brought to previous employers and roles. Use marketing tools such as LinkedIn to highlight your work and reach a broader audience.

Remember to be strategic about the opportunities you consider. You don’t want to burn your bridges while putting time and effort into positions and companies you’re not truly interested in joining, Good luck on your search in 2024!

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