As our economy transforms into something unrecognizable, the economics of the legal profession and provision of legal services have changed as well. Since 2008, law firms and business clients have grappled with possible solutions wherein legal advice and services of sufficient quality can be provided at a cost that makes sense to all concerned, with varying success.
You should be aware of these developments and how they may benefit your company. One trend gaining popularity is the notion of “Part-Time In-House Counsel”, or an outside attorney from a private firm servicing your company’s in-house legal needs on a part-time basis. This arrangement can help your company (especially if you are a small to medium-sized company) to receive the high quality legal services it needs and deserves while controlling costs.
Establishing an in-house legal department can be an expensive prospect. Hiring outside counsel at an hourly rate to perform traditionally in-house functions may also seem financially daunting. However, by negotiating a fair and reasonable arrangement with an experienced attorney for the provision of traditionally in-house legal services at a fixed periodic rate, a company can acquire the safety of having the legal advice it needs at a surprisingly comfortable cost.
Why would a law firm agree to such an arrangement? Simply put, there is a continuing proliferation of new lawyers and the economy stinks. Further, a law firm is a business. Like any other business, law firms need to budget. Before a business can budget, it needs to be able to make reasonable projections of income. This requires steady, reliable income streams. By agreeing to a Part-Time In-House counsel arrangement, a law firm adds a stream of steady, reliable revenue and this, in turn, helps with income predictability.
Also, there are certain situations attorneys prefer to avoid. Traditional arrangements, even with precautions, sometimes lead to unfortunate episodes, such as this one described by a colleague of ours in a very unvarnished fashion: HERE
(Yes, folks, it takes years of hard work and focus to become an attorney. It takes many more years of dedication to become an experienced attorney. You like to be paid for your work. So do we.)
Making a Part-Time In-House Counsel arrangement work for all concerned is not necessarily easy – in addition to the usual conflict of interest search and other procedures law firms employ when accepting new business, the firm and the business client need to sit down and do a thorough assessment of the company’s legal needs and anticipated professional services. The scope of the work, firm resources devoted to the Part-Time In-House Counsel work and anticipated hours per week need to be agreed upon in advance. Also, an adult discussion about the value of the work and what the company can reasonably afford, as well as other terms of payment of costs/ compensation, needs to be held.
Stay ahead of the curve. Know how changes in the economics of lawyering can benefit your company. Knowing your company's options will better enable you to Explore the Boundaries of Your Business.