Bruce Hawthorne, Corporate Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary for Huntington Ingalls Industries, provided details about what it takes to be a successful general counsel during his presentation at the 2014 Chief Legal Officer Leadership Forum in Chicago on Sept. 17. In his presentation, Hawthorne noted the role of general counsel tends to differ from company to company, but every general counsel needs to understand an organization and its customers' needs.
According to Hawthorne, a general counsel typically faces numerous leadership challenges. Teamwork and collaboration are key for general counsels, Hawthorne said, and those who learn how to connect with their peers can thrive. In addition, Hawthorne pointed out a successful general counsel can help his or her peers thrive: "Companies generally understand this and they're coming to expect more and more from lawyers as leaders, and the question becomes how are you going to respond and when are you going to respond? ... And so as a general counsel, there’s a real opportunity for you to respond to that and help your team members flourish as leaders as well."
Taking the initiative enables a general counsel to stay ahead and build long-lasting relationships with customers and peers, Hawthorne said. If a general counsel is dedicated to his or her organization and its success, Hawthorne said, this professional can help every team member succeed: "When you think about what lawyers do, we’re professionals and we’re empowered to take initiative. As leaders of lawyers, we can’t tell our lawyers what to do or interfere with the client relationship. The leadership challenge then is how do you position your colleagues, whether they’re your clients or the lawyers who work with you, to flourish?"