Business organizations need legal advice since the time of inception. Legal advice is necessary for company formation and incorporation, and then to take care of routine legal work. From general legal compliance to drafting of contracts with business associates and vendors to taking up specific legal issues that may arise from time to time, professional legal advice is necessary. Whether to have full time inhouse legal services or outsource the general counsel service is the prerogative of individual business entities. It depends on what stage of evolution a business organization is at, and whether it can afford to appoint a full-time general counsel and whether the quantum of legal work within the company justifies the appointment of in-house counsel.
Small or medium-sized enterprise generally tend to defer the appointment of in-house counsel to as late as possible to avoid incurring additional financial burden. Bigger organizations, on the other hand, have a dedicated in-house legal services team to handle their legal requirements. This article tries to find the best options for an organization on hiring legal services.
There are various options available with companies as far as hiring legal services is concerned. It is generally noticed that firms initially hire outside law firms to take care of their legal work. The companies either pay a fixed monthly fee to the hired law firm or make assignment-based payments. It depends on the nature of the business and the quantum of legal work. The company has to decide what type of arrangement would be more suitable to them financially. This is what we call outsourcing general counsel services.
As the company and the business evolve, the demand for legal services and company secretarial services may increase significantly. In such situations, it would make sense to hire in-house legal professional to reduce the amount of legal work being outsourced. Depending on the nature and stage of the business, a company might be tempted to hire temporary legal professional. However, this is a difficult proposition for a variety of reasons, such as non-availability of talented professionals, low commitment levels, and lack of continuity.
In such a scenario, a company is left with no other option but to hire a permanent employee. Now the pertinent question is whether to hire a full-time or a part-time employee. If the workload is not too much, then hiring a part-time attorney makes sense as it is easier on the pocket and you will not be required to accord additional benefits to a part-time employee, which you otherwise would have had to. Besides, a part-time employee might give weightage to non-monetary benefits, such as work from home or flexible work hours. However, finding a competent part-time attorney can be challenging task.
Where to Find General Counsel
You can start your search for inhouse legal services by inquiring with your company connections. If a company known to you has outsourced legal services, it can provide useful advice for your search. A company may not exactly understand what they should look for in an attorney to fulfil their legal requirements, but an outside law firm can gauge your requirements and accordingly advise you on the same. Another option is to contact staffing agencies or legal search.
Staffing agencies cater to, both temporary and permanent requirements. It is often seen that temporary employees are subsequently absorbed in the company when their quantum of work increases. However, you should gauze their interest and commitment levels at the beginning itself. Legal search firms specialize in identifying a legal professional who fits your company’s legal requirements. They charge a fee based on the compensation paid to the hired professional.
The final option is to contact the local or state bar associations and put out a listing about your requirements. It could, however, be difficult for you to select the best attorney suitable for the job yourself. It is, therefore, advisable that you seek help from a lawyer in selecting the right candidate.
Questions to be asked when Interviewing an Attorney
When you set out to hire in house legal services, you have to be very selective in your approach. The final stage of the hiring process is the interview. You need to ask certain specific questions to the prospective attorneys to satisfy yourself. These questions may include:
- To gauge his/her interest and commitment to the role, you must ask the reason they would want to work with you.
- What motivates them to work in your company?
- Why do they think they are the right person for the job? Is their knowledge and experience good enough to fulfil the demands of role? The role of inhouse legal services is highly demanding, therefore, you must ascertain that the candidate fits the bill.
- To understand their problem-solving ability, ask them what their approach would be when they are confronted with some legal issue which they are not fully conversant with. Also, try to know how well the person is networked in the legal community and how he/ she is perceived among the fellow legal professionals.