There are many different names for it: Outside counsel, part-time general counsel, flat-fee general counsel, outside GC, or even fractional general counsel. But the concept is the same. Instead of hiring a lawyer full time to attend to your business’s legal affairs, hiring a law firm on a part-time basis that specializes in providing outsourced in-house counsel services.
Here are six reasons why this decision makes sense for most small-to-mid-sized businesses.
Hiring a Good Lawyer Full Time is, For Many Businesses, Prohibitively Expensive
The best lawyers from the best law schools get hired straight out of law school to make nearly $200,000 a year—and that’s before they have any actual experience. Once they get a few years of real legal work under the belt, the price tag just goes up.
If you want access to those kinds of lawyers, you usually have only two options—pay at very high hourly rates for their time or pony up the money to lure one of those lawyers away from one of the big firms. For most small to mid-sized businesses, both options are unpalatable.
Firms that specialize in outsourced in-house counsel arrangements try to strike out a Goldilocks position. In exchange for a modest but consistent up-front, flat-fee financial commitment, businesses can get access to great lawyers at a much more reasonable price.
Two Heads Are Better Than One
Even if you do have the resources to hire a full-time general counsel, there’s a limit to what even a very good lawyer will know on her or his own. That means, when a really complicated matter arises, your full-time general counsel will still likely want to hire someone else to help them out. That means you’re on the hook for both the salary and employment costs of a general counsel and the very high hourly expenses of your outside counsel.
Outsourced In-House Counsel Services Help You Plan and Budget for Legal Expenses
Hiring a good lawyer at their normal hourly rate makes planning for legal expenses challenging. One month you might pay nothing and then the next month, you could have five-figure legal expenses. This is a budgeting nightmare for even the best-run businesses. Having a formalized retainer relationship with top-quality, outsourced in-house counsel enables you to know, with reasonable certainty, ahead of time what your monthly line item expense for legal fees is likely to be. This lets you budget for legal costs and then get back to running your business.
At McCarthy Garber Law, we have 10-hour, 20-hour, and 40-hour flat fee monthly packages, ranging from $2495 a month to $7775 a month—all prices that reflect huge discounts on our normal hourly rates.
An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure
The truth is, nearly every business decision has legal implications. The unfortunate reality is that most companies don’t consider most of those legal implications because it’s too expensive to do so. And then, by failing to consult with qualified legal professional on contracts, business deals, and other routine business documents, sooner or later, catastrophic legal issues arise.
Hiring an outsourced in-house counsel makes it easy to get regular check-ups on the legal health your business, rather than only speaking with your lawyers when something is horribly broken.
It’s a Better and More Humane Way to Work with Lawyers
Regardless of how much you like your lawyer, it’s hard to enjoy your interactions with him when every time you speak with him, you’re staring at the clock, knowing that every few minutes means additional hourly expense and higher legal bills.
By pre-paying your legal expenses, the stress of legal bills goes down dramatically, and the value of your interactions with legal counsel improves. No more staring at the clock—rather than fretting over your bills, you can focus of your attention on what really matters, your business and its needs.
Great Lawyers Can and Will Help Your Bottom Line
Great lawyers don’t just minimize expense, they maximize value. Every business deal is a negotiation opportunity, and if your lawyer can help you negotiate better terms for even one serious deal a month, he can help your business make more money.
What’s more, having a smart, knowledgeable legal professional in regular conversations with your CEO, your Board of Directors, and other members of your management team will help your executive team gain insight into how to handle legal and risk-management issues, even when the lawyer isn’t in the room.
Ultimately, hiring the right outsourced in-house counsel will improve the institutional sophistication and integrity of your business, and that will help your bottom line. Which, in the end, is why you’re in business in the first place.