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How to Spot a Great In-House Candidate

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 29, 2018 4:20 PM

It's easy to spot great candidates for in-house counsel.

Basically, they have already arrived. They beat out all other candidates for a plum job, working in the industry that you serve.

But it's possible to overlook a great candidate if you don't know what to look for in the applicant pool. Here are some observations:

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Robert Osher, newly named general counsel at Miramax, is a fine example. He is a film industry veteran, which explains part of his success.

Unlike lawyers looking for BigLaw jobs, his resume is not focused on where he went to law school. It's more about where he has been in the entertainment field.

During tours at Miramax, Sony and Columbia studios, he has been tasked with legal, business affairs, mergers, acquisitions, creative production and strategies in television, motion pictures and digital production. In other words, he was best candidate because he was the best fit for the business.

Josh King, as general counsel for Avvo, said the "most qualified fit" is not the most credentialed on paper. Writing for GeekWire, he said to "think most about finding someone who aligns with your business approach, is responsive, shows good judgment, and understands your level of risk aversion."

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On the scale of considerations, experts say, weigh on the side of understanding the company's business. Legal search consultant Valerie Fontaine says companies "overwhelmingly" favor lawyers who know and understand their business.

"The ideal in-house candidate has experience either working within or representing clients in the same or similar industry as the prospective employer," she says.

The "great" candidate checklist also includes:

  • Transactional experience
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Legal skills with creative solutions to complex business problems

And everybody knows the best in-house attorneys are people people. That's why everybody knows them.

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