No matter what industry or geographic region your company serves, there are specific laws and rules that you must follow. This need usually prompts business owners to consider hiring legal representation but often find that they cannot afford the costs associated with in-house counsel. Outside general counsel is a perfect balance, even if you already have in-house counsel, due to this arrangement’s flexible and cost-effective nature.
The article below covers everything that a start-up or business owner should know about hiring outside general counsel:
What Is Outside General Counsel?
Outside general counsel is a cost-effective way for medium and small businesses to retain the services of a lawyer or law firm. You generally hire outside general counsel as an independent contractor to work alone or with your in-house counsel. They have the capacity to handle matters, such as drafting and reviewing contracts, going to civil court, or offering ad-hoc legal advice.
You can hire outside general counsel to advise you in the following areas of law:
- Commercial real estate
- Contracts & transactions
- Corporate governance
- Employment law
- Mergers & acquisitions
Lawyers or law firms that provide outside general counsel services come in a variety of sizes and specializations. They usually work on flat fees, subscription payments, and traditional hourly billing. Law firms that offer these services will transparently share their billing requirements and practices with you before retention.
What is an Outside General Counsel’s Role?
Outside general counsel’s role is to offer business law services to start-ups and companies. They work externally as independent contractors, which means that your company doesn’t have to afford the standard accouterments of working with private employees. Law firms that offer outside general counsel services are often prepared to customize their approach to your company’s unique needs.
Your outside general counsel team can fulfill the following roles:
- Managing legal drafting, contract negotiation , and contract review efforts
- Spotting breach of contract issues internally and externally
- Providing ongoing legal advice on routine matters
- Handling the delegation of incoming legal matters
- Working with specialists and experts to achieve desired results
- Coordinating with your in-house team to navigate various legal issues
- Engaging in risk management services to mitigate financial exposure
- Directing efforts related to internal matters, like board meetings and disputes
- Representing the company in transactions, negotiations, and litigation
- Advising on employee-related issues
- Training employees and executives on business-related matters
- Drafting the documents necessary for business formations
Your outside general counsel will need to possess the same abilities, qualifications, and skills as in-house general counsel. This requirement means that they must have a valid law degree and licensure through the local bar association. What makes outside general counsel’s different is that they serve multiple customers versus working privately in-house.
Benefits of Having Outside General Counsel
Companies of all sizes face legal issues regularly. Outside general counsel’s most significant benefit is providing ongoing legal advice and advisement on various matters, from regulatory issues to compliance.
Here are four benefits of hiring outside general counsel:
Benefit #1. Finances
Hiring outside general counsel is a cost-effective method of legal representation. Instead of keeping an in-house team on-staff, you can work with outside general counsel as needed. There’s no need to pay them benefits, bonuses, or make space at your office.
Benefit #2. Geographic Diversity
Many start-ups require the help of outside general counsel to transcend country and state lines. Breaking into new markets may require a full review of the rules and regulations that apply. Your outside general counsel can help you navigate these murky waters while helping you avoid legal mistakes.
Benefit #3. Specialization Access
It is beneficial to have outside general counsel based on their access to specialized people and experts. Outside general counsel can help connect with others. Instead of costs acting as a deterrent, the flexible nature of outside counsel can make it a possibility.
Benefit #4. Efficacy
Large companies will benefit from using outside general counsel for routine matters. They use in-house counsel to manage the overarching legal strategy and vision. In contrast, outside counsel handles the ad-hoc assignments. Small companies enjoy these advantages similarly since they can work with a solo practitioner on an as-needed basis.
Difference Between Corporate Counsel and General Counsel
There’s no difference between corporate counsel and general counsel. You can use the terms interchangeably. However, it’s better to use corporate counsel when referring to a corporation.
Can You Be Outside General Counsel to More Than One Company?
Yes, you can be outside general counsel to more than one company. However, the representing firm must ensure that no conflicts of interest exist with their current clients. More prominent law firms utilize conflict of interest software to ensure that your representation is ethical and fair.
When Should a Company Hire Outside General Counsel?
A company should hire general counsel as they begin experiencing significant growth. Usually, these benchmarks manifest in better infrastructure, a growing executive team, and raising capital. Even for the in-between phases of a company lifecycle, outside general counsel can become an invaluable resource that you can lean on as uncertainty arises.
1. When You’re Growing
Outside general counsel’s job is to assist you in growing and, hopefully, lowering expenses. As such, they’ll concentrate on contract and daily risk management, as well as acting as a consultant. They’ll review your company from a big picture perspective, keep you out of trouble, and look for opportunities to grow your organization.
2. When You’re In Trouble
If your company does find itself in hot water, outside general counsel can and will intervene on your behalf. Some matters are best handled by a business lawyer who has a strong command of legal knowledge and a deep bench of experience. They will make the dispute resolution and litigation process more streamlined while representing you as issues arise.
3. When You Need Legal Advice
Sometimes a business owner just has legal questions in general. Wouldn’t it be ideal to have someone on retainer that you could just call or email to answer them as needed? Outside general counsel is like having a legal doctor that can diagnose, analyze, and process your situation while applying relevant laws to it.
4. When Your In-House Team Needs Support
Outsourced general counsel and in-house teams can work together. Instead of bringing on another lawyer, you can support your existing team with outside general counsel. They can perform routine matters and take on transactional work that tends to bog down your in-house counsel while freeing them up for more pressing issues.
5. When the Benefit Outweighs the Cost
Standing on the losing side of a civil lawsuit is often more expensive than hiring a law firm in the first place. It’s not a drain on your financial resources if the costs outweigh the benefit. The firm you select should act as a transparent partnership that seeks to achieve positive outcomes for you and your team while not being afraid to offer a tough or unpopular opinion.
Hiring Outside General Counsel
If you want to hire outside general counsel, speak with business lawyers. They can offer you an initial consultation to learn more about how they can customize their services to fit your needs. Hiring outside general counsel is a wise approach if you need ongoing legal advice without a significant financial commitment.
Post a project in ContractsCounsel’s marketplace to get quotes for outside general counsel services. ContractsCounsel is a leading legal marketplace with vetted lawyers ready to help your business.
Meet some of our Outside General Counsel Lawyers
Attorney handing civil litigation, business, real estate, and much more
Attorney Cory Barack specializes in business, real estate, probate, and energy law. He can help you with oil/gas leases, easements, property sales, drafting contracts and wills, setting up companies, and resolving disputes. He is licensed to practice law in Ohio and is located in Eastern Ohio.
Brittany advises startups and emerging and public companies at all stages of growth, with focuses on formation and corporate governance matters, securities, venture capital financings, M&A and other strategic transactions, commercial contracts and general corporate counseling. Brittany represents clients across a broad spectrum of industries, including technology, automotive, mobility, digital health, consumer products and manufacturing.
Tech leader and General Counsel with 12 years of in-house experience.
We are a boutique firm located in San Diego that handles civil litigation with a couple other areas of law.
Liz is an experienced insurance professional, having worked with carriers and brokers for over 10 years. She can review or draft a variety of commercial agreements and is here to help your business. Specialties include: Master Service Agreements, business process outsourcing, marketing and partnership agreements, broker agreements, and NDAs.
I have been a freelance attorney for several years and have many of my clients returning to me for continued work because of the quality I produce.
20+ years working internationally in-house with BMS, Bayer, ImClone and Osteotech, plus another dozen running a boutique business law firm. Our contract experience runs the entire spectrum - M&A, Real Estate, Procurement, Entity and Formation, Licensing, Employment, Drug Development, Professional Services and SaaS.
Amy Sue L.
Ms. Leavens is a corporate attorney with 10 years of experience as the General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer and Corporate Secretary of a Congressionally chartered, non-profit corporation, and more than 20 years of experience as an advisor to executive officers and boards of directors in for-profit and non-profit organizations. She has substantial experience within in-house legal departments managing cross-functional teams comprised of multiple business units and attorneys on large-scale mission critical projects, and within a global law firm as a manager of public and private, domestic and international, multi-party business transactions. She has unique experience implementing government-sponsored business initiatives. Ms. Leavens was honored in 2015 as one of Washington, D.C.’s Top Corporate Counsel by Bisnow and the Association of Corporate Counsel; nominated in 2014 for the Association of Corporate Counsel (WMACCA) Outstanding Chief Legal Officer Award; and the recipient in 2014 of WMACCA’s Community Service Award.
Most of my career has been as in-house counsel for technology companies. My responsibilities included managing all vendor/procurement contracts and compliance, customer/partner/reseller contracts and compliance, data security/privacy compliance and incident responses, HR/employment issues, and legal operations. I am very comfortable negotiating Commercial Contracts, Vendor Agreements, and Procurement Contracts for goods, services, and licensing, as well as addressing Employment & Labor, Intellectual Property, and Data Privacy issues and compliance. I specialized and have a certificate in IP in law school and continued to develop in that area as in-house counsel for Interactive Intelligence, Genesys, which are unified communication companies, and KAR Global in the automobile digital services lines of business.
Transactional and Employment Attorney and Small Business Owner. I do inside counsel work from the outside. I demystify the law for my clients.