That is the conclusion of a legal search firm’s President, published in “Things to Think About When Hiring Your General Counsel.” Methinks the Esquire Group doth overstate too much.
Possibly, if companies assume the candidates all possess the requisite level of legal judgment, the swing votes go to the one with more business shrewdness. Even so, a general counsel often hires, manages, and evaluates subordinate lawyers, and solid legal credentials count in those domains. Surely the key trait in a prospective top lawyer is mastery of the law.
Enough extra responsibilities have been lain at the door of general counsel (See my post of March 16, 2006) that to demote their lawyerly contribution smacks of either irony or ignorance.