The complexities of the business world often require legal advice. Many organizations retain the services of a general counsel for that purpose. The general counsel is assisted in her duties by one or more associates, who perform much of the daily work under her supervision and direction. Although some job duties are common for most associate general counsels, other duties vary according to the industry.
The Basic Qualities
An associate general counsel needs certain skills and characteristics to be successful. He must be able to analyze complicated situations and problems without prejudice. Objectivity and precision are very important qualities in the analysis process. Lawyers are paid to find solutions, so creativity and good problem-resolution skills are required. Discretion and the ability to keep matters confidential are also necessary. In addition, an associate general counsel must be able to build rapport with clients and put them at ease, and needs good written and spoken communication skills.
Protecting the Client
An organization’s general counsel determines the day-to-day tasks of an associate general counsel and typically takes her specific skills, knowledge and experience into account when doing so. In an education setting, for example, an associate general counsel must be knowledgeable about state and federal education codes and existing law related to education. She might draft a legal opinion on topics such as student or teacher disciplinary action, or changes in district policies.
A Variety of Responsibilities
The secondary functions of an associate general counsel typically vary according to the organization. In a large organization, each associate might have specific responsibilities, such as real estate acquisition and property law, human resource management or criminal law. An associate general counsel might also conduct research, draft legal opinions or contracts, negotiate a settlement or represent a client in court. In each case, he must maintain records of his activities and might need to collaborate with other counsels in the organization.
How To Get There
A lawyer must complete a bachelor’s degree prior to entering law school. Although her degree is most likely to be in law, courses such as English, public speaking, government, history, economics and mathematics are useful, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. She then spends three years in an American Bar Association-accredited law school and must pass the bar exam to become licensed. Most states require continuing education to maintain licensure. The BLS reports the median salary for lawyers in 2012 was $113,530. Job growth from 2012 to 2022 is projected to be 10 percent, about the same as the average for all occupations.
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