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How to become a non-executive director

Senior partners approaching retirement can benefit from non-executive directorships that broaden their commercial experience and help their career development.

If your long-term aim is to join a FTSE board, it pays to start targeting non-executive roles with smaller organisations years before the end of your legal career  ̶  however the legal profession is notoriously bad at preparing our partners for life after the firm.


What boards look for in non-executive directors

  1. Experience – financially literate with a proven track record in an area of business expertise
  2. Team players: Let executive management get on with it, leave egos at the door, you don’t need to win every argument. Lawyers are perceived to be weak on this as boards see them as hired guns operating in a specialised legal world and not ‘part of the wider business’
  3. Independent, challenging advisers – be detached, objective and supporting
  4. Committed and prepared – understand the business and be available for consultation outside of meetings
  5. Good communicators and listeners – a good non-executive director does more listening than talking
  6. Sound judgement – intellectually flexible and able to take a balanced approach to decisions
  7. Visionary and Passionate about the business – be strategically aware and enthusiastic
  8. Build external relationships and act as ambassadors: “Develop a wide network of contacts within and external to the company.  Help to open doors and position the company externally
  9. Self confident but not dogmatic: “Lawyers must put aside their inclination to insist their view is best but, equally, they must develop a viewpoint rather than simply offer both sides of the argument
  10. Open to feedback – the best non-executive directors welcome feedback and coaching as part of enhancing board performance

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