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Why you should hire someone like me as your outside general counsel.

Byline: Tamara Kurtzman

In the new economy that emerged in the aftermath of nearly two decades of recurring financial scandals and economic crisis, companies have sought to streamline their operations and cut costs like never before. With this new emphasis on frugality and efficiency, many businesses have opted to insource the majority of their legal needs and thereby significantly decrease their reliance on outside law firms. Indeed, this trend is indicative of the larger decline of "big law" and client dissatisfaction with that outdated practice model.

But no company should hire an inexperienced attorney as its general counsel. And indeed, the result can be disastrous for businesses that do. And the level of experience and responsibility inherent in the role of a good in-house general counsel isn't always as inexpensive as you might think. Indeed, an in-house general counsel typically receives executive-level compensation that can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, plus other benefits. That, of course, does not include the cost of support staff and other resources. As such, especially in the case of midsized and smaller companies, insourcing legal needs is not always practical for businesses that have neither the capital nor the work load to justify the cost and commitment of a in-house legal department.

Outside general counsel attorneys and boutique business law firms represent an affordable middle ground for businesses looking for experienced corporate practitioners without the sizable overhead associated with hiring a full-time employee. Like their in-house counterparts, outside general counsel have a business-centric and practical approach, but because they practice across many industries and see a wide range of situations (and solutions), they are able to draw on that knowledge and constant experience to offer a wider range of options and ideas to clients. What is more, boutique firms are not only perceivably more attentive to their clients, but are also willing and able to employ alternative billing models such as monthly fixed-rate and flat-rate task billing.

Additionally, utilizing the services of outside counsel (especially a boutique firm) often provides significant legal infrastructure and access benefits for a corporation. For example, most law firms spend tens of thousands of dollars each year maintaining updated law libraries and subscribing to online legal research services. Having access to cutting-edge information is critical in litigation as well as ever-changing practice areas such as regulatory and compliance matters. By hiring outside counsel, businesses get the benefit of a law firm's vast resources at a fraction of the cost of purchasing these materials directly.

Ironically, even larger corporations with established in-house attorneys are well served by establishing working relationships with outside counsel. Because in-house attorneys often hold executive positions with their companies, conflicts often require the retention of outside counsel for litigation matters. Likewise, it is an unfortunate reality that most companies will, at some point, face some allegation of internal wrongdoing that necessitates internal investigation. In such circumstances, outside counsel provides much needed neutrality and credibility with respect to any investigation, which in turn, often results in a better outcome for the company. Having trusted outside counsel at the ready who already knows the corporation inside and out is essential to swift and efficient management of a situation.

For companies of all sizes, a strong outside general counsel can be a key ally and partner in driving revenue and strategic initiatives. Because client relationships are paramount for boutique firms, these firms are able to work with clients in the close and meaningful way that in-house legal departments function. The result is that outside general counsel services have become more appealing and affordable then ever before.
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Copyright 2016 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Inside Counsel Breaking News
Date:Mar 10, 2016
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