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.