August 28, 2012 Articles

Book Review: Courageous Counsel: Conversations with Women General Counsel in the Fortune 500New

The book chronicles how women have successfully attained and fulfilled the general counsel role in Fortune 500 companies.

By Gilda R. Turitz

Courageous Counsel: Conversations with Women General Counsel in the Fortune 500 is the result of an ambitious, well-documented, and well-researched project that chronicles how women have successfully attained and fulfilled the general counsel role in Fortune 500 companies since the first woman was appointed to that position in 1979. The authors—Michele Coleman Mayes, general counsel of Allstate Insurance Co. (in 2011, No. 89 in the Fortune 500) and Kara Sophia Baysinger, a partner at SNR Denton US LLP—undertook to investigate how the more than 100 women who have held the position of general counsel in the Fortune 500 got there and the key elements that allowed them to ascend to such positions throughout the past three decades of changing business, social, cultural, and other factors. What resulted is a fascinating amalgam of career paths and personal stories that explores in detail the factors and keys to these women’s successes and that relies on solid authorities for such critical components as leadership, risk taking, and mentoring. In short, this work explores and illuminates the many aspects of that elusive quality—courage—that these women exhibited to secure the chief legal officer position at the country’s largest public companies. While the research amply demonstrates that there is no one formula for success, a balance of three major factors illustrates each of these women’s achievements as their narratives unfold: (1) mentoring; (2) risk taking; and (3) personal and professional skills, attributes, and characteristics.

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