By Naveen Tuli, Managing Partner and Jerry Temko, Managing Director at Major Lindsey & Africa.
For any businesses clinging to the traditions of city life: long business lunches, entertaining clients and written thank you notes, Covid’s fast track into the digital realm will have been a shock. However, with Zoom called the new bread and butter of the workday, businesses of all types have had to accelerate their digital transformation plans, and this transition has understandably heralded a whole host of complex legal issues. Enter in-house attorneys.
With hybrid working now a permanent fixture, General Counsels (GCs) must now have more than a passing knowledge of data privacy law to ensure robust compliance with companies’ hastily constructed remote working practices. . In-house lawyers need to future-proof businesses by taking on data-driven responsibilities more than ever, especially in a grim post-Brexit world. However, given the ever-expanding breadth of GC roles and the ongoing competition among companies for specialized expertise, are companies willing to pay more for top legal talent?
following the money
Technology is currently outpacing existing legislation and finding someone who truly understands the data security, privacy and compliance risk management program is critical to running a successful business. Many multinationals have sharpened their talent radar by recruiting lawyers from big tech companies like Apple, Google and Amazon. With a technical background, these lawyers can support data scientists by applying a practical and operational understanding of data privacy issues, which they can bring to companies facing increasingly sophisticated issues in this area.
This trend is particularly marked in the pharmaceutical sector. According to Major, Lindsey & Africa’s recent internal compensation survey, these data-savvy lawyers rank near the top of the salary hierarchy.
For example, the survey found that GCs/CLOs in the biotechnology sector are paid an average of $35,640 more than in the technology sector. It seems that companies are beginning to recognize and reward GCs that can tame data complexitywhich will only grow in importance in the post-Brexit landscape for companies headquartered in the UK.
Climbing the corporate ladder: GC+
Employers and in-house lawyers are clearly aligned when it comes to developing their skills, leading to higher compensation. In fact, CGs look for opportunities when available to improve their skills and negotiate a higher rate of pay. Data-savvy GCs continue to be in high demand in today’s recruiting market, with plenty of competition at the top of the pyramid as companies try to retain their top legal talent.
As a result, some GCs are looking to smaller companies or even start-ups to employ them, as there is less competition for more experienced and better paid positions – a particularly important trend in the biotechnology sector. However, what also comes with these roles is a much broader mandate. Not a career path for the faint-hearted, GCs gain positions at the top of the business pyramid and find their role has evolved into that of a GC+.
This expanded role transcends legal and compliance oversight and often includes privacy, IT and cybersecurity, human resources and supply chain. Data-savvy GCs may not be experts in all areas, but can apply deep analytical skills to address key issues such as privacy, compliance and technology risk management. Engaging with such a wide range of business functions can stretch GCs beyond their comfort zone, but many have been willing to take the plunge based on opportunities for financial gain and professional development.
With the recruiting market hot in many industries, one thing is becoming clear: legal minds with data and privacy savvy are valuable and highly sought-after assets for a company. In a buyer’s market where employees have a choice, it seems GCs follow the money and are willing to upgrade their skills to do so. As data legislation becomes increasingly prominent in boardroom discussions, companies will need to consider how much they are willing to raise salaries to secure top data-savvy talent.
[ This is an educational guest post written for Artificial Lawyer by professional recruiters, Major Lindsey & Africa. ]