Chief Legal Officer – Definition

Cite this article as:"Chief Legal Officer – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated September 10, 2019, last accessed December 4, 2020,


A chief legal officer also known as a general counsel is the highest legal position in a public traded company. Chief Legal Officer (CLO) is mandated to ensure that legal risks of the company are minimized. He or she does this by giving legal advice to board members and company officers, especially on litigation risks. CLO takes care of all the company’s legal matters, and he or she reports to the Chief Executive Officer.

Basically, a CLO takes charge of legal matters in the company. Different organizations have different roles as far as this position is concerned. However, the major roles are to inform the executive team on emerging law changes. This includes both new and pre-existing laws that may affect the company’s business operations. It is also the duty of the CLO to take employees through a curriculum program on business legal matters.

The responsibilities of a CLO vary depending on the structure of an organization. However, below are the typical responsibilities of a chief legal officer:


  • Providing legal advice


It is the duty of the CLO to brief the company’s staff on potential liabilities, legal issues and possible courses of action.  The briefing can be through oral or written means. He or she has an obligation of translating complicated legal terms so that employees can understand. The recommendations made by the CLO should be in line with the existing law. Also, the recommendations should aim at minimizing legal risks in the company.

  • Processing documents

Legal work involves a lot of paperwork. The CLO has a responsibility of ensuring that all the legal paperwork are dealt with. He or she will be required to write and review the following:

  • Settlement documents
  • Agreements
  • Contracts
  • Stock certificates

The four tasks are essential and make up a better part of CLO’s daily duties. This requires him or her to have focus and accurate when working on the documents.

  • Conducting Research

It is the work of the CLO to carry out research on legal matters on behalf of the company. This is to ensure that the company matches the emerging changes in the legal field. The legal research can be on codes, statutes, judicial decisions, among other things. The research also helps the CLO to make informed recommendations on legal issues.

  • Identifying Risks

It is also the duty of the CLO to ensure that the company does not get itself into any legal problems. The officer is, therefore, required to analyze the company’s actions and decisions before their implementation. This will enable the CLO to identify areas with risks and suggest ways of minimizing them.

  • Directing Staff

For any legal problem in the company, the CLO takes charge of it until the problem is solved. He may personally handle the problem or delegate it to an attorney to ensure that the problem is solved.

  • Chief Legal Officer’s Education and Qualifications

To qualify for the position of a chief legal officer, you need to have a law degree. You are also expected to have significant experience working as an attorney. In general, competent CLOs should have knowledge of legal matters and the company’s business.

The following are key skills that a chief legal officer should possess to be able to execute his or her duties effectively:

  • Being able to communicate effectively (both verbal and written)
  • Should have exceptional leadership skills
  • Being attentive when analyzing issues
  • Should have exceptional negotiation skills
  • Knowledgeable when it comes to preparing legal documents including complicated ones.
  • Should have outstanding skills for solving problems
  • Should have good analytical skills……/general-counsel-chief-legal-officer-clo-programme

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