Interim Insights: A conversation with Howard Trust, General Counsel Regulatory and Corporate Advisory Schroders
In today’s dynamic legal landscape, companies are increasingly leveraging the benefits of interim executives to address specific needs and unexpected vacancies. Charles Waples, Principal, Legal Practice, spoke to Howard Trust, General Counsel Regulatory and Corporate Advisory Schroders, on the qualities and skills crucial for selecting successful interim legal professionals, emphasising experience, adaptability, and interpersonal skills.
Benefits of interim consultants:
1. What qualities and skills should a company look for when selecting an interim legal consultant to ensure a successful engagement, and how do those differ from the skills and qualities required for a permanent hire?
The qualities and skills required will of course depend on the assignment and so it would be very important that the company was clear about what their needs were. Generally, though, the interim consultant should have the experience to hit the ground running, particularly in the legal areas that are relevant to the company and with respect to working at a senior level as part of or alongside a management team. Prior experience in the industry concerned would be less important if the candidate had the right level of experience. Interpersonal skills and self confidence would be important. A permanent hire could well be ready to develop into a new role in an industry they know but might not need to be 100% effective on day one.
2. In what types of legal or regulatory matters or projects, including developing succession, do you believe interim consultants can provide the most value to an organisation?
An interim could be an ideal option when the expected successor to a general counsel role is still some way off being ready and would benefit from support while they made that transition; when there were a distinct project to be managed; where there was an unexpected vacancy that needed covering until a permanent hire could be made; or where the company wasn’t quite sure what they wanted and would benefit from the experience of having an interim and experienced GC in place to enable them to firm up their views.
Building a legal team:
1. Could you share some insights on the process of creating a diverse and inclusive legal team, and why this is important in today’s legal landscape?
Whatever agency is used in the hiring process must be made fully aware of the inclusion and diversity expectations and that they are expected to provide suitable lists of candidates. The company/GC should also review the job specification to make sure that there aren’t any non-essential requirements that could exclude candidates from diverse backgrounds, particularly from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.
2. Do you have any thoughts on the best way to make use of law firms and of temporary solutions to capacity and capability needs?
Law firms tend to be expensive providers of on the ground headcount. A proper plan for work that is most effectively handled in-house and what should be handled externally is key. As a general rule, all business as usual work should be done internally, supplementing capacity with interim/temporary solutions: and law firms should be used to fill unusual capability gaps.
Tips for up-and-coming General Counsels:
1. What are they key trends or challenges you foresee in the legal industry that up-and-coming general counsel should be prepared for?
The need to stay current, as a generalist, with more and more, nationally, and internationally, at a time of global legal and regulatory divergence but global sales strategies, while retaining the capacity to give good counsel.
2. Can you share a memorable lesson or experience from your own career journey that would be valuable for those on the path to becoming a general counsel?
Whilst it is important to aspire to be a good lawyer and management team member, it is also important to seize unexpected opportunities that present themselves. Often, if the event is serious for the firm there will be an opportunity to demonstrate one’s capabilities at a more senior level than normal. Take those opportunities and also make sure that one has access to good support to enable one to deliver. It is also important to plan ahead and manage expectations of what a good and achievable outcome might look like.