More women being hired as general counsel

June 5, 2017

A new report is hailing the increase in the number of women hired for general counsel jobs in Fortune 500 companies, a trend which is expected to continue.

The report by Russell Reynolds Associates found that the rate of hiring female candidates for top legal jobs at Fortune 500 companies jumped nearly 50 percent from 2012 to 2016. Twenty-four percent of the open general counsel positions at these businesses were filled with women in 2012 and by 2016, the portion had jumped to 35 percent.

Companies wanting general counsels who have previous experience working in-house is fueling the increase in female hiring. Since 2014, four out of five of all external candidates hired by Fortune 500 have worked in corporate legal departments.

In the past, companies made at least a third of external general counsel appointments from the top partner ranks at law firms. But women are still struggling to obtain equity partnerships or become firm mangers and practice group leaders, and the number of Fortune 500 general counsels hired from law firms has slid almost 50 percent since 2014 as companies look for candidates who can step into the leadership role of the legal department and immediately begin tackling the business issues.

This shift has increased the number of women in the general counsel candidate pool. Within the last three years, 91 percent of women hired externally had in-house experience and 61 percent had been a general counsel.

The report expects the trend to continue. With more women gaining in-house experience and competing for general counsel positions, their hiring prospects should continue to improve.    


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