We asked Jaclyn Caugherty, counsel, employment litigation at ExxonMobil and winner of the Employment Individual of the Year award at the 2017 Global Counsel Awards, her opinion on what it takes to be a successful in-house counsel, the best way to advise senior leadership and what winning the award meant to her.

Describe your current role (responsibilities, size of team, structure).

I work on U.S. employment litigation for ExxonMobil and its subsidiaries.

What led you to a career in-house?

I previously worked at a very large, international law firm.  I received incredible training and mentorship there, and am extremely grateful for the years I spent there. However, as I approached partner-level, I had to take a step back and decide what I wanted for my professional life.  I decided that my skills and value were not in being a partner who had to continuously solicit business; rather, my skills and value were in being part of a client team who shapes best practices to prevent litigation and making strategy calls when litigation did happen.  Being a part of the employment litigation docket at ExxonMobil has allowed me the opportunity to best showcase these strengths.

What do you consider to be the essential qualities for a successful in-house lawyer?

Knowing the law and being able to issue-spot and do risk analysis. Oftentimes I find myself catching something that an outside counsel may not have considered because they are not as familiar with the day-to-day workings of the company. I think in-house counsel may sometimes be at risk for relying on their outside counsel too much, and we need to make sure that we are always taking an active role in matters.

Knowing your client’s business is also essential. In-house counsel have to be sensitive to the business reality of their clients and know how to make a cost-benefit analysis from both a legal and business viewpoint.   

What’s important for in-house counsel to consider when advising senior leadership?

Their time is more valuable than your own. Be concise but realistic about the particular risks and rewards that you are presenting. Always have alternative approaches ready for them to consider when tackling a tough issue.

If not a lawyer, what would you be?

Most likely a professor. I am an academic at heart.

What did winning a Global Counsel Award mean to you?

Because I do not have a general counsel or associate general counsel title, I was shocked that anyone even knew to nominate me. But I was floored when I won. I have always been the person behind the scenes and never one looking for the spotlight, so words do not adequately express how incredible it felt to learn that the legal community had recognised all my years of hard work and devotion to the employment law industry. It was the biggest honour of my professional career and I am incredibly grateful to the Global Counsel Awards, Lexology, International Law Office and the Association of Corporate Counsel for putting together an award that finds people like me who – albeit behind the scenes – are working each day to add true value to their clients.  


The purpose of the Global Counsel Awards is to identify those in-house counsel, both teams and individuals that excel in their specific roles. The primary aim is to reward lawyers for demonstrable achievements across the full spectrum of in-house responsibility, not simply those who have acted on high-profile transactions. To make a nomination for the 2018 awards please click here.