New CEOs often want to shape their own team of senior executives, so the general counsel may also be a casualty of change (See my post of May 14, 2005 on the vulnerable period after a new CEO arrives; Sept. 13, 2005 on survival after a merger.). The typical tenure of a US general counsel – on the order of seven years – may be shortened if the person the GC reports to leaves (See my post of March 26, 2006 on succession compared to new blood.). I would think the odds are lower of that happening, however, if the new CEO comes from the company’s ranks of senior executives.
But promotion from within is happening less often these days. “In the 1970s, only 10 percent of new chiefs at Standard & Poor’s 500 companies came from outside” whereas now that figure is nearly thirty-three percent, according to the NY Times, Nov. 6, 2007 at C4. Strangers as new bosses ought to concern incumbent general counsel more than familiar faces.
The article also suggests that CEOs do less these days to groom successors, even going so far as to axe contenders for their position. That same fearful dynamic may be at work among general counsel who feel precarious in their position.