In the United States, a lot of corporations and all government departments have in-house legal teams to provide advice, handle lawsuits, negotiate deals, and more. While the exact job titles may vary, these legal departments can have different positions, one of which is that of the assistant general counsel.
But what is the assistant general counsel responsible for?
Whether you’re a legal professional exploring jobs and researching assistant general counsel jobs, or a recruiter that’s in search of job description templates, keep reading.
In this post, we’ll discuss, in great depth, what a typical assistant general counsel does, provide a ready-to-use job description template, and share some average salary figures from different credible sources.
Let’s get started.
Who is an Assistant General Counsel?
Assistant general counsel is considered a mid-level position in a legal department. They are attorneys who, together with the rest of the corporate counsel team, provide legal support to their organization (usually as full-time employees).
An assistant general counsel is mainly responsible for ensuring compliance with the law, litigation, handling legal paperwork, and providing advice on legal and regulatory issues, among other things.
Different companies have different definitions for this job title. For instance, in some companies, the assistant general counsel reports to the associate general counsel, whereas in some companies, it’s the other way around. However, in every company, the assistant general counsel is above paralegals and other entry level positions.
They may also report directly to the deputy general counsel or the chief general counsel, depending on the organization’s hierarchy.
Why an Assistant General Counsel is Needed
Not all organizations have assistant general counsels. Some companies have one-person legal departments, while a few don’t even see the need to have a formal in-house team (and only rely on outside counsel).
However, certain organizations, with a high need for legal support, require additional manpower for optimal performance, and therefore hire assistant general counsels. They help:
- Assist General Counsel – the general counsel already has a lot on their plate. They can trust the assistant general counsel to take some load off their shoulders.
- Deliver Legal Support – assistant general counsels are experienced attorneys. The upper management turns towards them to seek expert legal advice.
- Improve Performance – lastly, assistant general counsels can have a direct impact on the business bottom line by ensuring compliance, improving the productivity of the office of general counsel, and mitigating legal risk.
All things considered, finding the right person for the job can add significant value to the entire organization.
Typical Duties and Responsibilities of an Assistant General Counsel
At first glance, the general counsel job description is very similar to that of an assistant general counsel.
The only difference is in terms of the decision-making power – the general counsel/chief legal officer can directly influence the legal strategy, leads the entire team, and communicates with other department heads. However, when it comes to the core legal support, both the GC and the assistant GC have more or less the same jobs.
Again, this may vary from organization to organization.
With that out of the way, the assistant general counsel is responsible for:
Furnishing Legal Advice
This is the core responsibility of all mid and top-level attorneys in any in-house legal team.
Whenever the management of the organization requires legal advice on any matter (say, a game-changing strategic decision), they’ll turn towards the assistant general counsel.
In most cases, the assistant GC conducts legal research for the main GC at the top, draws up conclusions, and presents their finding to the board of directors.
Whatever the case, the end-goal is to ensure that the organization complies with different laws (such as the equal opportunity act, privacy act, etc.).
Providing Legal Representation
The purpose of having in-house counsel isn’t to just receive legal advice and ensure compliance. The in-house team is also expected to provide legal representation whenever needed (such as when someone files for a lawsuit or the intellectual property of the company is at stake).
Furthermore, they’re responsible for educating the employees of their organization about their legal rights, assisting them with any paperwork they need, and seeking compensation from external parties whenever needed.
While lawsuits are mostly handled by the general counsel, the assistant general counsel may be asked to step in as well.
Engaging in Risk Management
Corporations and government agencies are constantly under various legal threats.
One misstep could land them in the court. The legal teams therefore take certain measures to mitigate those legal risks – a process known as risk management.
The assistant general counsel is responsible for assessing potential risks, creating strategies to avoid them, and planning for every conceivable outcome.
Assisting the CLO with Their Tasks
As mentioned above, the assistant general counsel works under a chief legal officer/chief legal counsel/general counsel.
They assist them with their day-to-day tasks, conduct research (if paralegals aren’t available), and help them create and execute legal strategies.
They also assist CLOs in preparing for lawsuits.
Overseeing and Negotiating Business Contracts
Every once in a while, major corporations and government agencies undergo large-scale business deals/transactions that can decide their future.
These could include the acquisition of new real-estate, procurement of certain machinery or raw material, or merger of companies, among other things.
In a typical organization, the assistant general counsel is responsible for overseeing such transactions, negotiating better deals, and drafting contracts.
Advising on Corporate Governance
Large businesses and government departments can have significant impacts on the environment, the economy, and strategic relations with other countries.
There are certain laws to keep them in line.
These organizations have to conduct their business in ways that comply with those laws. The systems, regulations, and structures that define all of this comes under the umbrella of corporate governance.
The assistant general counsel, together with the general counsel, oversees the corporate governance to ensure the organization doesn’t break any law.
Liaising with Outside Counsel
At times, the in-house general counsel isn’t able to handle all of the legal work for their organization (or don’t have the expertise to deal with unusual circumstances). In such a case, help from outside counsel is needed.
The assistant general counsel liaises with the external counsel, provides support, and collaborates to create legal strategies.
Assistant General Counsel Job Description Template
All things considered, there’s a lot that an assistant general counsel has to deal with.
It’s absolutely crucial that you hire the right person for the job. You can tweak the following JD template however you like and use it to create job postings on different platforms:
“We are looking for an attorney with 4+ years of experience at a reputable law firm, with experience in corporate law, to join our organization’s legal department as the Assistant General Counsel.
As the Assistant General Counsel, you will work under the senior counsel to provide expert legal and regulatory advice to the management, assess legal risks, conduct extensive research, and ensure compliance with the law.
The ideal candidate must have strong interpersonal skills and should be able to play well with their team members.
You will be responsible for:
- Furnishing legal advice and educating employees about their legal rights
- Overseeing business transactions, contracts, and agreements
- Creating strategies to deal with risks
- Providing legal representation to the organization and its employees
- Work closely with the general counsel to provide assistance with legal matters
Furthermore, you’ll be expected to perform any additional duties whenever needed. If you’re interested, apply with your resume and a cover letter explaining why you’re a perfect fit for this role.”
Assistant General Counsel Salary
The salary packages of assistant general counsels vary from location to location, and from employer to employer.
According to Glassdoor, the average salary of assistant general counsel is $152,564/year. As per the salary reports on PayScale, the average is $140,637. Meanwhile, Salary.com estimates the figure to be around $138,231.
As of now, one of the highest paying organizations for this role is Capital One Financial Corp, where an assistant general counsel can earn $183,000 per year.
As far as the locations are concerned, New York City, San Francisco, Washington DC, and Dallas are some of the highest paying cities.
The assistant general counsel is a vital part of the legal department and serves as the right-hand of the chief legal officer.
Considering that, hiring the wrong profile for this critical role can turn out to be expensive for your organization.
If you’re an employer, spend some time crafting the perfect job description, get your company’s general counsel involved (if you have one right now), and reach out to candidates from different online job portals.
If you’re a candidate, brush up on your knowledge about corporate law, find out what makes a candidate successful, and search for open positions in your state.