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Outside General Counsel Service Cost

Updated: August 11, 2023
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How much does outside general counsel service cost? Company owners may ask this question, especially those just starting up and needing legal advice. So let's explore this question and the factors that impact general counsel service fees.

How Much Does Outside General Counsel Service Cost?

From startup to daily operations, it is common for company owners to face many legal challenges when running a business. Retaining outside general counsel services is one-way business owners secure ongoing legal advice.

Unlike fractional general counsel and fractional general counsel lawyers, outside general counsel services are typically provided by an established law firm with licensed attorneys. In addition, the outside general counsel lawyers will work for a company as subcontractors to provide legal advice and services as needed. Some services that outside general counsel may provide are:

  • Contract drafting services
  • Contract review services
  • Negotiation
  • Risk management
  • Breach of contract advice
  • Represent the company in legal proceedings
  • Advising human resources for employee-related issues

Hiring outside counsel is usually more cost-effective than paying a full-time legal team to work for your company. This approach also allows business owners to seek lawyers specializing in various fields.

Before hiring outside general counsel, it is important to determine what legal services agreement will be in place, how you will be charged for those services, and how much those services will cost.

Lawyers, including those who provide outside general counsel services, use different billing structures, which can also affect the overall price of their services. For example, some lawyers bill by the hour for their work, while others quote a flat fee rate, contingency rate or use retainer fees.

Based on ContractsCounsel's marketplace data, the average cost of outside general counsel services in any legal field is $195 per hour.

Typical Outside General Counsel Service Cost Structures

Hourly Rate for Outside General Counsel Service

The most common cost structure attorneys use in all areas of law is the hourly rate fee. In an hourly rate agreement, the outside general counsel will bill their client a set rate for time spent working on the case.

Throughout the duration of legal services, the outside general counsel will track their time by the 10th of an hour in six-minute increments. In addition, a fee agreement executed between the company and the outside general counsel will guide how frequently the company will be billed for legal services.

The downside of an hourly rate cost structure is that legal fees will fluctuate monthly depending on how often general counsel is utilized. This can make it difficult for a company to budget for attorney fees.

ContractsCounsel's marketplace data shows that the average hourly rate for outside general counsel services is $195 per hour across all states and legal fields.

Flat Fee Rates for Outside General Counsel Service

A flat fee is a pre-arranged total fee for legal services. This fee structure can be used for outside general counsel services in one of two ways.

  1. Outside general counsel services can charge a flat rate monthly retainer fee for all services offered to the company.
  2. Outside general counsel services can quote a flat rate each time the company needs a legal project completed.

The specifics of either agreement need to be detailed in a legally binding fee agreement contract. For example, the fee agreement should detail the services included in the flat fee or a specific scope of work for each project.

Retainer Fees for Outside General Counsel Service

A retainer fee cost structure coincides with an hourly rate cost structure. Retainer fees require the company to make a lump sum deposit with the outside general counsel, from which hourly fees can be deducted. As a result, the company will usually be required to deposit more money as its balance decreases.

If a retainer fee structure is used, the fee retainer agreement should specify the hourly rate to be billed and how often the company is required to make additional retainer deposits.

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Factors that Impact Outside General Counsel Service Costs

Several factors impact how much outside general counsel services will cost. The three most important factors are:

  1. The type of legal work
  2. The attorney's experience level
  3. The amount of legal work that is completed for the company

Type of Work

The type of legal work that the outside general counsel will complete for the company will heavily impact the cost of services. For example, lawyers can charge more if they have special knowledge in complicated fields or provide specialized services.

For example, suppose a company needs legal advice regarding intellectual property rights. In that case, it will pay more for an attorney with expertise in intellectual property law.

Some companies may only hire outside general counsel services for basic contract drafting and review services. In this case, their legal fees will be less expensive.

Experience Level

An established law firm generally provides outside general counsel services. Therefore, the experience level of the attorneys working at the firm will significantly influence how much the firm will charge for outside general counsel services.

Experienced lawyers with a proven track record are in higher demand than new lawyers just beginning their careers. In addition, experienced lawyers can charge higher legal fees because their experience and knowledge make them more valuable.

Amount of Work

The amount of work and complexity of the work will affect how much outside general counsel services cost. More complex tasks will take more time and therefore cost more money.

Sometimes companies are involved in complex lawsuits and litigation that can require hundreds of hours of legal work. This type of case will be much more expensive than a simple contract drafting project.

What are Typical Outside General Counsel Service Costs

Throughout the United States, typical outside general counsel services usually range from about $170 to $250 an hour. These hourly rates will increase with experience and practice area specialization.

Attorneys who provide outside general counsel services may consider different factors when setting their fee rate and payment structure, like their experience and the type of legal work they will be doing for the company.

Is Hiring Outside General Counsel Expensive?

Hiring outside general counsel services can be expensive. Still, this method of legal services tends to save company owners in the long run.

Suppose a company has an in-house legal team. In that case, they will be responsible for competitive salaries, benefits, bonuses, and operational costs due to additional day-to-day employees at the office.

By hiring outside general counsel services, a company only spends money on legal services when the services are necessary. Larger corporations involved in a high volume of legal matters will probably need in-house legal, and outside general counsel services should suffice for most average-sized companies.

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