What is General Counsel?

Legal Definition
A general counsel, chief counsel or chief legal officer (CLO) is the chief lawyer of a legal department, usually in a company or a governmental department.

In a company, the person holding the position typically reports directly to the CEO, and their duties involve overseeing and identifying the legal issues in all departments and their interrelation, including engineering, design, marketing, sales, distribution, credit, finance, human resources, production, as well as corporate governance and business policy. This would naturally require in most cases reporting directly to the owner or CEO overseeing the very business on which the CLO is expected to be familiar with and advise on the most confidential level. This requires the CLO/general counsel to work closely with each of the other officers, and their departments, to appropriately be aware and advise.

Historically, general counsel often handled administrative tasks while outside lawyers in private practice handled more complex legal work. Since the 1980s, however, the general counsel position has become increasingly prominent in multinational companies, often directly advising the board of directors in place of outside lawyers. General counsel are now often among the most highly paid executives of major American corporations, and prominent American government lawyers and law firm partners are often hired for general counsel roles at prominent companies. Similar trends are also being seen in the United Kingdom and other countries.

General counsel often have broad roles encompassing crisis management, compliance reporting management and public policy advocacy. Many companies also hire in-house counsel to handle specialized tasks such as tax work, mergers and acquisitions, labor law and intellectual property, sometimes building in-house practice groups that rival the practices of major law firms.
-- Wikipedia
Legal Definition
The senior attorney that represents a business; can be an in-house position or a partner from an outside law firm.
Legal Definition
A senior partner in a law firm or the firm's full time employee who is a senior lawyer representing a firm.