General Counsel in Canada: How to Apply |

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Jobs & Career

General Counsel in Canada: How to Apply

The level of competition for general counsel positions has increased in the ongoing quest to draw and keep the best candidates. The responsibilities of this position have changed to include participation in company decision-making as a strategic executive team member. In recent years, the role of a general counsel in Canada working at public companies has become more prominent.


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It has shifted from a highly ranked supporting role to a critical leadership position. Besides acting as strategic advisors among boards of directors, general counsels are now considered top executives. In this article, we will highlight the responsibilities of the general counsel in Canada, salaries, the working environment, and some of the challenges in this field!

 

What is a General Counsel?

A general counsel is a senior legal advisor offering legal advice and support to a company or organization. The general counsel is frequently hired rather than independent lawyers when an organization needs legal assistance and has many compliance obligations. For example, you might be employed by a company that manages various contracts and needs legal counsel to examine paperwork and resolve possible disagreements.

 


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General counsels may find employment in corporate settings and financial institutions across various industries, including manufacturing, consulting, marketing, and communications. They work on several facets of the law and manage all legal concerns for their customers. A business will handle every aspect of the legal system should it be sued for contract disputes or compliance problems.

 

In addition to having legal knowledge, general counsel integrates into the client’s business structure. For instance, understanding the business processes and operations in technology or manufacturing is essential to providing practical legal guidance. Now, let’s look at the duties and responsibilities of a general counsel in Canada.

 

Duties of a General Counsel

  • Providing legal advice: The business relies on you, as general counsel, to advise on legal issues affecting business. As part of your job, you must ensure the business abides by legal and industry laws. You can negotiate the regulations that impact the company because of your in-depth knowledge of industry and company laws.
  • Evaluating current company policies: As industry standards and laws constantly change, you can help keep your company compliant by assessing its current policies and advising on necessary changes. For instance, if employee rights and protection laws change, you can ensure that your organization updates its policies accordingly.
  • Managing legal disputes: General counsels are responsible for managing and resolving any legal disputes the company may face. They often represent the company in court proceedings and negotiations, ensuring their client receives the best possible outcome. This could involve resolving disputes with other businesses inside or outside the courtroom.
  • Implementing risk management strategies: You are expected to be the general counsel to detect potential corporate legal problems and devise preventative measures. You assess organizational risks, particularly in areas with several compliance needs. Implementing risk management practices protects the business from legal issues and compliance worries. It is your responsibility to mitigate the risks connected to employment and contracts.
  • Writing legal documents: General counsels don’t go to court daily like criminal lawyers. A company’s legal department often drafts agreements, contracts, and other documentation required for court proceedings. Their job is to write documents and ensure compliance with the law.

 

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Salary of a General Counsel in Canada

According to Talent.com, the average salary of a general counsel in Canada is $145,000 per year or $74.36 per hour. Entry-level positions start at $87,833 annually, while most experienced workers make up to $188,435 annually.

 

As a general counsel, your work experience, educational qualifications, the industry you work in, and the company’s size will significantly influence your earnings. Some industries have numerous legal obligations, increasing your responsibilities. Hence, you are likely to earn more due to the complexity and scope of your duties. Working in a small company attracts a lower salary since you have fewer responsibilities.¬†

 

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Working Environment of a General Counsel

General counsels work primarily in an office within the legal department. Their duties include conducting research, drafting contracts, and reviewing agreements. In court proceedings, they attend court and meet with opposing counsel to discuss out-of-court settlements.

 

Occasionally, general counsel jobs may require travel, such as attending conferences and workshops. However, they can work remotely from home when not attending court proceedings.

 

General Counsel Work Schedule

Although general counsels frequently work regular office hours, 9 AM to 5 PM, they occasionally work late into the night or on the weekend to fulfill deadlines, attend conferences, or see clients. However, full-time jobs remain the norm; those looking for more freedom may be able to find part-time opportunities.

 

Educational Requirements of a General Counsel

Bachelor’s degree: You require a law degree as a general counsel. In Quebec, you can join the field with a college program. You should also complete the bar examination. Some general counsels join the career as notaries, which requires a bachelor’s degree in civil law and a master’s degree in notarial law.

 

Licensing: You must provide general counsel in Canada with a license from the provincial licensing authority. In Alberta, you should be an active member of the Law Society of Alberta (L.S.A.), while in British Columbia, the regulatory body is the Law Society of British Columbia. You require a license from the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society in Nova Scotia.

 

Necessary Skills of a General Counsel

  • Exceptional writing skills: You are responsible for drafting various legal documents, like contracts, agreements, and compliance policies. You need excellent writing skills to ensure these documents are error-free and meet legal requirements.
  • Organizational skills: With numerous legal matters, you need exceptional organizational skills. These skills let you plan your work schedule, prioritize tasks, and ensure that every legal matter is handled efficiently.
  • Interpersonal skills: You work with a wide range of professionals within the legal industry. Hence, you rely on your interpersonal skills to effectively collaborate with others, primarily through active listening and communication. This enables you to build strong relationships with clients, stakeholders, and other professionals.
  • Legal knowledge: A comprehensive understanding of the law and legal processes is essential for a general counsel. You need knowledge of various legal aspects, such as compliance requirements, to help your clients remain compliant and resolve disputes effectively.

 

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What are the Challenges and Rewards of Being a General Counsel?

General counsels face challenges, including balancing legal work with strategic responsibilities, managing risk, and ensuring compliance in a dynamic business environment. They also provide timely and accurate legal advice to support decision-making, navigate complex litigation, resolve legal disputes, and serve as trusted advisors to the C.E.O. and executive team. The rewards include the opportunity to shape corporate strategy, influence critical decisions, and play a pivotal role in the organization’s success.

 

Conclusion

There, we have discussed all it entails to become a general counsel in Canada. Apply Now!

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a legal counsel and a lawyer?

As a legal counsel, you are employed by companies to handle legal matters and compliance issues. You work alongside a legal team. A lawyer also provides legal advice to individuals or companies. However, a lawyer can work independently.

 

What is the path to becoming a legal counsel?

The first step in becoming a legal counsel is gaining the relevant qualifications. Pursue a bachelor’s degree in law and complete the bar examination to qualify as a lawyer. You should also be an active member and have a license from a provincial law society. With the relevant qualifications, gain experience through internships and entry-level roles.

 

Is legal counsel a promising career?

Working as a legal counsel is an exciting career with promising prospects. You are familiar with the industry regulations and can quickly move to executive positions. Some legal counsels become legal advisors, consultants, or chief executive officers (C.E.O.s).

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