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
June 16, 2022
NJ and NY corporate contract lawyer and founder of a firm specializing in helping entrepreneurs. With a background in law firms, technology, and world class corporate departments, I've handled contracts and negotiations for everything from commercial leases and one-off sales agreements, to multi-million dollar asset sales. I love taking a customer-focused and business-minded approach to helping my clients achieve their goals. Other information: learning to surf, lover of travel, and one-time marathoner (NYC 2018) yulawlegal.com
June 12, 2022
Angelica McDonald, Esq. has singlehandedly established an in-demand law firm, won several accolades for her incredible work in her community and has her sights set on building a bi-coastal law practice that serves clients from her hometown to Hollywood. She is putting her city of Raeford, North Carolina on the map as the birthplace of the next legal superstar. And she is just at the onset of her career. An astute attorney, Angelica is sought after for her razor-sharp business acumen and her relentless litigation style. With a diverse background in entertainment, media and sports law, as well as business, she represents entrepreneurs and athletes on everything from complex contract negotiation to intellectual property matters, ensuring anything they’ve built is protected.
June 13, 2022
I have been in practice since 1990 and practice in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. I am an experienced litigator and look forward to resolving your legal questions as efficiently as possible.
June 20, 2022
Hello! I am an Iowa native trying to bring some Midwest problem-solving to southern civil law. I thoroughly enjoy getting to know the individuals and businesses I assist. I practice estate planning and business formation and, with my litigation experience in mind, I help clients plan to ensure they and their interests are protected in the future.
July 12, 2022
Danielle Giovannone is the principal of Danielle D. Giovannone Law Office. In her experience, Danielle has found that many business do not require in-house legal counsel, but still need outside counsel that knows their business just as well as in-house counsel. This need inspired Danielle to start her firm. Before starting her firm, Danielle served as Contracts Counsel at Siena College and as an attorney at the New York City Department of Education, Office of the General Counsel. At the NYCDOE, she served as lead counsel negotiating and drafting large-scale commercial agreements, including contracts with major technology firms on behalf of the school district. Prior to the NYCDOE, Danielle worked as an associate at a small corporate and securities law firm, where she gained hands-on experience right out of law school. Danielle has provided legal and policy advice on intellectual property and data privacy matters, as well as corporate law, formation and compliance, employer liability, insurance, regulatory matters, general municipal matters and non-profit issues. Danielle holds a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law and a B.S. from Cornell University. She is active in her Capital District community providing pro bono services to the Legal Project, and has served as Co-Chair to the Niskayuna Co-op Nursery School and Vice President of Services to the Craig Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization. Danielle is a member of the New York State Bar Association.
July 17, 2022
Anand is an entrepreneur and attorney with a wide-ranging background. In his legal capacity, Anand has represented parties in (i) commercial finance, (ii) corporate, and (iii) real estate matters throughout the country, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Arizona, and Georgia. He is well-versed in business formation and management, reviewing and negotiating contracts, advising clients on financing strategy, and various other arenas in which individuals and businesses commonly find themselves. As an entrepreneur, Anand is involved in the hospitality industry and commercial real estate. His approach to the legal practice is to treat clients fairly and provide the highest quality representation possible. Anand received his law degree from Rutgers University School of Law in 2013 and his Bachelor of Business Administration from Pace University, Lubin School of Business in 2007.
August 16, 2022
I am a corporate attorney with several years of experience with contracts, corporate and business, government projects, and employment law.
May 29, 2022
If you're looking for an attorney who can help your business succeed, look no further! With my experience in the legal field, I can provide you with the legal advice you need with entity formation, contract drafting, business operations, and more, And because I'm committed to providing high quality service, you can be sure that your needs will always be met. Contact me today to learn more about how I can help your business thrive!
June 12, 2022
I am a Florida estate planning and probate attorney helping clients achieve their goals through personalized legal strategies. Excellent communication, thorough preparation, and accurate execution are the keys to success.
July 8, 2022
Ahaji Amos, PLLC is a Houston-based intellectual property and civil litigation firm servicing clients throughout the U.S.
July 14, 2022
Combining extensive experience in litigation and as general counsel for a real estate and private equity company, I provide ongoing guidance and support to clients on a variety of transactional matters, including business formation, partnership agreements, corporate agreements, commercial and residential leasing, and employment issues.