The explosion of interest in governance in recent years means that now is a very exciting time to consider a move into a career in governance. With the eyes of the world looking at organisations to work legally, ethically, sustainably and successfully to find solutions to global issues such as COVID-19, climate change and social inequality, there are few roles that offer as much opportunity to be directly involved in making decisions like that of the governance professional.

Three good reasons to make the move

ICSA: The Chartered Governance Institute has identified three good reasons why barristers and lawyers, wanting to use their legal expertise outside of the Bar, should consider making a move:

1. Influence: Governance offers a direct route into the boardroom. As the board’s most valued strategic adviser, you get to use your legal knowledge in a job that sits at the heart of organisations in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

2. Value-add: The role directly influences strategy and decision-making, how an organisation achieves its aims, and how it ensures that all activities comply with legal, ethical and regulatory requirements.

3. Breadth: You will be well rewarded, not just financially, but in terms of the breadth of the role. No two days are the same – you’ll have a role that is jam-packed with variety.

All-seeing, all-knowing and extremely valued

Governance professionals are the eyes and ears of an organisation. One of the most interesting parts of the role is that you get involved with many areas of the business and develop a full picture of what it does and how. One day you might be organising board meetings and the AGM the next, you might be arranging the induction and training of non-executive directors. In smaller organisations, you might also manage data protection, business continuity and risk, or deal with facilities, insurance, pensions and HR. There is much more to the role than simply ensuring statutory and regulatory compliance.

Unlike lawyers, who will present to the board on a particular issue and then leave the meeting, a governance professional will sit through the entire meeting and consequently obtain a vast repository of knowledge about the entire organisation. The breadth of the role means that knowledge is acquired quickly, and rising the ranks can happen more swiftly than through the legal route.

So how can you make the switch?

Many of the skills gained at the Bar are transferrable to a role in governance. Negotiating skills and relationship-building skills are just as important as sound technical knowledge, but the gravitas of the role means that professional qualifications are desirable. If you have a law degree or a certain number of years in a legal role under your belt, you can fast track through the Institute’s Chartered Governance Qualifying Programme.

Chartered status is the benchmark governance qualification, recognised and valued by employers around the world. The programme is split into three parts and covers subjects including: Corporate Governance, Company Law, Finance, Company Compliance and Administration, Risk Management, Strategy, and Boardroom Dynamics.

Members of the Bar with up to five years’ relevant experience can apply to receive exemptions from the Company Law and Strategy modules, allowing them to qualify faster. If you are a qualified law practitioner with more than five years’ experience, you could quickly become Chartered with the Institute’s Fast Track Professional route, which means that you only need to complete the Corporate Governance and Risk Management modules. 


With over 125 years’ experience, we work with regulators and policy makers to champion high standards of governance and provide qualifications, training and guidance. Find out more about the Fast Track route to becoming a Chartered governance professional – visit: www.icsa.org.uk/fasttracklaw