'Unconnected' lawyers not considered for FTSE boards

By Mary Heaney

30 September 2013 at 10:14 BST

Lawyers lack the right connections and commercial nous for board positions in corporates, say FTSE Chairmen.


Furthermore, legal skills are not seen as necessary for a board role, according to a study of lawyers as Non-Executive Directors (NEDs).  The research, Lawyers on Boards, by headhunters Hedley May, asked CEOs and Chairmen from the FTSE 350 for their views on the role lawyers could play. The study revealed that private practice  lawyers were seen as “unduly cantankerous” with a tendency to believe that the legal issue was the most important factor in any decision. Furthermore,  some of the interviewees said that lawyers liked to “dominate” the conversation and liked “the sound of their own voice”.

No opportunity to shine

In-house lawyers, on the other hand, were not always afforded the opportunity to showcase their commercial  skills and were usually called on to provide advice on a technical legal point or governance issues – giving the impression of a technician rather than a Non-Executive Director –in-waiting, the report said.

Invisible on longlists

Chairmen interviewed by the headhunters struggled to recall the name of a lawyer from in-house or private practice ever appearing on a longlist for boards. The company interviewed 72  Chairmen  and Non-Executive directors -  including eight FTSE 100 Chairment and six NEDs with legal backgrounds -  from 65 FTSE 350 boards.


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