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Aiming for the top

Career ladder iStock 000000318596XSmall 146x219How should you go about securing the position of head of legal at a local authority? Chris Guy shares some thoughts.

Not too long ago, I was asked for advice by a colleague applying for a local government Head of Legal role. The recruiter thought he had the skills, but my colleague wasn’t sure he had the experience.

My thoughts on this were:

  • Do plenty of background research. For example, has the post has been floating around for a long time? If so, then they are having trouble finding the right person. Accordingly, step into this vacuum and demonstrate that you are the solution to their problem!
  • Look carefully at the job description. Demonstrate your skills and achievements in the areas you are very familiar with; in those areas where you are (arguably) lacking in skills or experience, identify how you would go about becoming knowledgeable and where you would go to get such knowledge.

  • It is also important to develop and demonstrate a positive, “can do” attitude: you must be known as the person to come to for solutions, not obstacles. Remember, the client is always right no matter how bad her instructions nor even if he is actually wrong! Your approach should be to help the client achieve his goals and (if they are actually wrong) to subtly change her perception of the issue until they are facing in the right direction. It is really important always to avoid negativity (whether in yourself or in your team)
  • What would your first 100 days look like? What would be your priorities and objectives for this initial period? Certainly, they should include talking, listening and reflection.
  • How would you lead legal services?
  • What innovations would you bring to the role?
  • With you in charge:

- What would leadership look like?

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- What would key systems and processes look like?

- What would the legal service look like?

  • Finally do a PowerPoint presentation to yourself or to an imaginary interview panel explaining how you fit the job description, your skills, your experience and picking-up the above themes. When you do this, it is surprising how many things come out of your “mental woodwork” and give you the confidence that you can indeed do the job.

Chris Guy is a management consultant and former head of governance. He can be contacted on 07988 811 066 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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