Whether you are considering a move, looking to grow your own legal team or simply assessing your current role in comparison to your peers, it is important to keep in mind that job titles really do differ across the market and in many cases the job description may not match your or other people’s perception of the title.
Generally, a candidate will put their actual job title on their CV and LinkedIn and hiring managers will put a title on the job description that matches other titles in the company.
The problem arises when these two worlds collide. A candidate can overlook a relevant job opportunity because the job title means something different in their experience or an employee might feel aggrieved that a peer in a different entity has a more “senior” title to them. Likewise, a hiring manager can reject a CV because the candidate’s current job title means something different in their company.
In an ideal world we would title jobs in a standard way – a way that accurately reflects the context and content of the role; a way that would be understood by all. Unfortunately, that world is a long way off and confusing discrepancies exist in both private practice and in-house. Here we take a look at just some of the titles we come across for in-house roles (this list is definitely not exhaustive!):
- Legal Counsel / In-House Counsel/ In-House Lawyer– These are all general terms for a lawyer working in a company (as opposed to a law firm). Depending on the size of the legal team, the term “Senior” could be found in front of these titles for more senior members of the legal team.
- Attorney – Some US companies will use this term for their in-house lawyers.
- Head of Legal – This person will manage at least one legal team. The title is sometimes used interchangeably with General Counsel depending on the size of the company. In a larger company there might be a local Head of Legal and a global General Counsel or there may be a number of Heads of Legal, one for each area of the business or legal discipline (e.g. commercial, litigation etc).
- General Counsel – This is usually the title given to the most senior person on the legal team. The General Counsel usually attends board meetings and would deal directly with company’s board of management.
- Associate/Assistant/Deputy General Counsel (“GC”) – The variations of these are often seen in a large global legal team and would be used in similar manner to the title Head of Legal type as described above. An Assistant “GC” might be the lead lawyer for a particular country or region but will report to the global “GC” who might be based in, for example, the USA.
- Paralegal / Legal Specialist / Legal Executive–these terms are often used for a person who works in the legal team and their duties relate to legal matters, but they are not usually a qualified lawyer. It is however possible to find a qualified lawyer working in a role like this.
- Contracts Manager –This is a title which can definitely mean different things in different companies. Typically, this role involves contracts focused work, managing a large volume of contracts and or large contracts which require a lot of signatures. In some companies the contracts manager might be a qualified lawyer and will hold a high level of responsibility to include negotiating the legal aspects of the contracts they are responsible for. In other companies the contract managers’ duties might be limited to recurring, specific aspects of the contracts (such as questions on standard terms and conditions) and anything which requires deeper legal involvement might be referred to the company’s in-house legal counsel.
In addition to typical legal titles, companies will often have internal titles or levels such as manager, director or vice president, senior vice president etc. Sometimes this wording will be brought into the title too e.g. “Legal Manager” or “Vice-President, Legal”.
Part two of “Legal Titles Uncovered” focuses on Private Practice. Click here to read part two.
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