What you need to know before hiring in-house counsel
Some startups immediately start hiring in-house counsel and launch a legal department, while other businesses operate for many years before bringing a single GC on board. A general counsel under the company roof acts as an advisor and company representative, in addition to being the primary legal service provider. Whether you are motivated to reduce attorney costs, improve legal outcomes or enhance the quality of your legal advice, an in-house legal department with expertise in both the law and your particular business can be a strategic partner in your company’s long-term success. Let’s look at when to consider hiring in-house counsel, what to look for, and how to find them.
When to consider hiring in-house counsel
Several factors that can determine if hiring a GC makes sense for your company:
- High volume of legal work – If your company’s annual demand for legal services exceeds 1000 hours, an in-house attorney may reduce the outsourced hours. As a general rule, for each in-house attorney, there should be an additional 1000 hours of legal work.
- Type of legal work – If the majority of your company’s legal work is in a particular practice area, for example, employment, then a GC who specializes in that area of law could be a valuable asset.
- Project Management – If your company works with numerous outside counsel, juggling the projects and attorney relationships can become all-consuming. Hiring in-house counsel as a project manager ensures that all of the legal services your business contracts with are on task and efficiently managed.
- Type of business – A specialized in-house lawyer might make sense if your business consistently produces document-intensive work such as licensing or real estate, or if your company is in a highly regulated industry.
Whom to Hire
Candidates considered for an in-house position must have a proven track record and the required expertise. This is not a position that allows for on-the-job training! For a company looking to hire their first GC, but unsure about a full-time, permanent employment, here are some options to consider:
- Outsourced GC – An increasing number of law firms offer to bundle their legal services and set monthly payments for general counsel services. Your company may have access to one or several attorneys, depending on the agreement.
- Part-time GC – If your company wants to hire an in-house attorney but doesn’t have the workload to justify the expense, then a part-time position may be a viable alternative. Employing a part-time GC can save money in salary and benefits, and a flexible schedule may attract highly qualified candidates who are seeking a work-life balance.
- Contract-to-hire – Bringing someone in on a temporary status before making a final decision allows time to determine if a candidate has the qualifying skills and also if the company truly needs a GC. During the contract period, the staffing firm assumes responsibility for benefits and administrative costs.
- Flexible skill set – Many attorneys often have transferable skills, such as facilitating real estate transactions or summarizing complex non-legal documents. By hiring an attorney with a flexible skill set, your in-house counsel can take on other duties within the organization.
Where to Look
Whether you are looking to add one lawyer or build an entire legal team from the ground up, hiring legal talent is a tremendous undertaking for a company that doesn’t specialize in law. Legal recruiting is very different from corporate recruiting, and your company’s HR department may not have the relationships or knowledge to find the best candidates. If your company works with an outside law firm, they may be able to provide advice and direction on finding a qualified candidate. Another option for finding general counsel candidates is to work with a legal search or staffing firm. A professional legal recruiter has the resources, connections, and discretion to identify candidates that will best serve your organization.
Let Collier Legal Search be your primary resource for hiring in-house counsel.