From Law Degree to Executive Leadership

From Law Degree to Executive Leadership

How does one use their law degree to pursue the career they want? How does a newly qualified lawyer aim for the executive leadership side of business? How do they begin their degree with this in mind? Kenneth Cutshaw, President & CEO of GCG, here discusses with Lawyer Monthly how to get from a law degree to the top.

Attending law school requires a certain amount of decisiveness. More often than not, the decision to earn a law degree is the result of careful consideration about one’s future, but that does not necessarily mean a definitive career path awaits law school graduates. In fact, with endless options for the application of a legal education, quite the opposite can be true.

A law degree can lay the groundwork for a successful career across myriad industries and functions, including business leadership at the executive level. This is especially true if you know how to leverage your education and make smart career decisions that maximize your value to current and prospective employers.

It is important to recognize that your career may unfold much differently than you anticipate. What fulfills you from a career perspective today may come up short in decades to come, so careful planning and preparation for whatever lies ahead is critical. Above all, at the outset of your career, be open to the opportunities that may arise.

To achieve this level of preparedness, start by diversifying your knowledge base by enrolling in business, economics and leadership courses during your time in school. All organizations – regardless of industry – will require executive leaders who are adept in the financial and economic sides of the business. When those skills merge with a legal background, the value proposition for the company increases many times over.

Recent law school graduates should be open to – and seek out – continuing education in areas of study beyond the law; most organizations will offer ongoing learning and development tools to employees. Taking advantage of these opportunities will afford numerous benefits, including setting you apart from your peers and securing your involvement in strategic decision-making functions within your current and future roles and fields of practice.

Even if you are certain of future aspirations of executive leadership, consider pursuing some form of traditional legal practice, which affords young professionals an array of tangible, transferable skills. Practicing law forces individuals to become critical thinkers, strategic communicators, to see business issues from multiple perspectives, and to develop and employ successful collaboration techniques – all critical characteristics of successful executives. Further, the confidence and credibility that result from time spent in legal practice cannot be understated.

Perhaps the most important resource for a young lawyer whose objective is executive leadership is a lasting relationship with a trusted mentor who will take a vested and long-term interest in your personal and professional development. Even the most successful business leaders rely on the counsel of their mentors, whose guidance can be instrumental when career objectives are unclear or new opportunities arise.

Great mentors do not arise out of thin air; it is the responsibility of the young professional to seek out and foster relationships with potential mentors. Start by asking someone whom you respect, who has diverse experience and a record of success. Be forthcoming about your request and what you hope to gain from the connection, and take measures to ensure the relationship is mutually beneficial. You will only get out of it what you put in, so the more time and resources you invest, the more you will gain.

Finally, nothing will solidify a young lawyer’s candidacy for growth into executive leadership roles more than his or her commitment to delivering results. Whether in a legal or business setting, young professionals should have a singular workplace objective: impressing their clients, colleagues and supervisors. Recent law school graduates should actively seek out tasks that leverage their educational background, even if outside the purview of their day-to-day scope of work. Doing so will earn them the trust and respect of their company’s stakeholders and position them as front-runners for future growth, both within and among the organizations they serve.

Law school graduates, by virtue of their education, are uniquely positioned to contribute at the highest level to any business enterprise in which they are engaged. Taking these steps will help law students and recent graduates prepare for a lifetime of career growth, whether inside the courtroom or inside the boardroom.

Kenneth Cutshaw is the president and CEO of GCG, a leading global provider of legal administration and business process outsourcing solutions. Mr. Cutshaw previously served as president, chief development officer, and chief legal officer for a global restaurant chain; partner at a US -based law firm focusing on international transactions; senior executive with the U. Government; and cofounder of the post-Soviet private university Georgian American University in the Country of Georgia, where he served as its first Dean of Law and Provost.

1 Comment
  1. Paul Ikenna says

    This is awesome..The tips are well articulated and true.However we in Africa, precisely Nigeria have the challenge of mentorship. Access to business executives is almost impossible and when you get one they have no time for you.But at least through this medium,l ‘ve got access to wonderful write ups in different subjects. Am grateful.

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