what is a senior legal counsel?

As a senior legal counsel, you provide legal advice to companies or organisations. You work in-house to handle any legal matters that arise in the company. You also guide the company in making decisions that could have legal implications. Since you are actively involved in the organisation, you understand its operations, which helps you provide tailored legal advice that helps your clients achieve their commercial goals.

A senior legal counsel works for one company or a group of companies. Since you understand the industry intimately, you provide guidance on compliance with existing regulations. For instance, you ensure mining and manufacturing work environments meet Australia's Work Health and Safety laws. You also review manufacturing guidelines to ensure the company meets Food Safety Standards requirements.

Aside from contract negotiation and supervising policy development, you represent the company in court. You handle any litigation and lawsuits arising from business activities. That means you represent the client in courtrooms, mediation, and arbitration. Sometimes, you negotiate settlements on behalf of the company. Due to the complexity of your duties, you require extensive legal knowledge and work experience practising law.

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average senior legal counsel salary

The average salary of a senior legal counsel in Australia is $163,750 per year. When you have only a few years of experience as a legal counsel, you start with a lower salary of $141,000 per year. After working as a senior counsel for several years, you build your expertise and take home a salary of $223,500 per year.

what factors affect the salary of a senior legal counsel?

As a senior legal counsel, your experience determines your earnings. Having experience in legal matters improves your earnings. However, if you have additional knowledge of the industry you are working in, you can negotiate a higher remuneration package. Industry knowledge allows you to provide tailored legal advice and ensure compliance with industry regulations and laws.

The size of the organisation also influences your earnings. When you work for one company, you have fewer duties than a senior legal counsel in charge of a group of companies. Working for a group of companies involves complex responsibilities since you should be familiar with the local laws of the sister companies and ensure compliance. Hence, you earn a higher remuneration than a senior legal counsel who handles legal matters in one company.

Want to know what you will earn as a senior legal counsel? Check out what you are worth with our salary checker.


types of senior legal counsel

As a senior legal counsel, you can provide general legal advice or specialise in specific aspects of the law. For instance, a senior legal counsel specialising in employment laws protects the rights of employers and employees. You use your knowledge of labour laws to deal with legal issues from workplace disputes, such as discrimination, unfair dismissal or breach of contract. Your job is to advise the company on termination processes and the legal implications of employment contracts.

Some senior legal counsel professionals specialise in mergers and acquisitions. You negotiate contracts and review any laws that could prevent successful mergers or acquisitions. You also draft contracts and merger documents to ensure they are legally binding.

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two men working

working as a senior legal counsel

If you are a lawyer and prefer working in corporate settings, being a senior legal counsel could be suitable for you. Read on to discover the specific duties, job prospects, work environments, and work schedules of senior legal counsel.


education and skills

If you want to be a senior legal counsel, the first step is becoming a lawyer and member of the Law Council of Australia. Pursue a bachelor of law, which takes five years, or complete a Juris Doctor programme if you already have a bachelor's degree in a different field. A Juris Doctor course takes three years and equips you with the knowledge required to handle legal matters.

With your law degree, you can progress to a postgraduate qualification, such as a Master of Laws, which takes two years. Alternatively, complete the Practical Legal Training (PLT). Apply for admission to your state's bar, and after 18 months, get a practising certificate from the Australian Bar Association.

senior legal counsel skills and competencies

A senior legal counsel requires the following skills to excel:

  • legal knowledge: as a senior legal counsel, you provide advice on legal matters affecting the company. Hence, you require extensive legal knowledge in corporate law, tax law, employment law and property law. Your legal knowledge helps you draft policies and ensure the company is compliant with the legal requirements.
  • strategic thinking: as a senior legal counsel, you assist companies in significant changes. For instance, you handle significant financial agreements, mergers and acquisitions. Your strategic thinking helps you steer the company in the right direction. Strategic thinking and adaptability to changes are also useful skills in dynamic industries.
  • leadership skills: as a senior legal counsel, you are the head of the legal department. Your leadership skills help you motivate and inspire your team to achieve the company's goals.
  • communication skills: as a senior legal counsel, you represent the company in courtrooms and settlement meetings. Your verbal communication skills help you explain your ideas clearly. You also rely on your written communication skills to create contracts and employment agreements.

FAQs about working as a senior legal counsel

Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of a senior legal counsel.

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