One of the best ways I serve my clients is by getting to know them and their companies. And I mean really getting to know them — so well that I anticipate their needs and am able to head off issues that might arise or risks they are unwittingly taking.
Business law —
like so much of the law and even life — is like chess. It pays to stay one or two or more steps ahead. The best way I can stay ahead of the game for my clients is when I act as their outside general counsel. Here are three reasons to consider hiring outside general counsel for your business or company.
1. There’s value in consistent legal representation.
You get better, more comprehensive and forward-thinking legal guidance when you retain outside general counsel versus calling on business lawyers on as as-needed basis. Sure, clients can call on me when they have a question, issue or contract to review. But it also means that I am looking out for them in the interim and spotting things they might not think about. I’m thinking ahead about how new legislation regarding consumers, privacy, taxes or anything else might affect their business and what their companies need to do to stay compliant and mitigate legal risks.
Businesses with an outside general counsel on call are more likely to ask for help when there’s still time to fix whatever the potential problem is, rather than waiting until it’s too late — like after a lawsuit has been filed.
As an example, I’m thinking of a client who hired me after being sued by an unhappy customer. The client had received several letters from the customer’s lawyer before contacting me. He hadn’t called sooner, because he hadn’t worked with a lawyer before and didn’t know whom to call. Had he had counsel to call on when started getting the letters, he and his counsel might have been able to work out something with the customer without a lawsuit being filed. And that would have saved him money and also kept the complaints out of the public court record.
2. You could end up paying less when you use outside general counsel.
Speaking of saving money, some companies call on business attorneys on an as-needed basis. This is not cost effective. Plus, as mentioned above, you really don’t want to be searching for an outside attorney when a crisis hits — or when you there’s a big contract on the line.
Lawyers are not cheap. Period. But there are ways to retain legal counsel that are more cost effective than others.
If you pay as you go, hiring an outside attorney only when you have a contract that needs to be reviewed or an urgent issue that needs to be resolved, you are going to pay more over time. Chances are you will pay for different legal professionals to cover the same ground as they ramp up and learn your business. When you hire outside general counsel, that person is going to build historical knowledge about your business that will save you in billable hours the longer you work together. Even if your business is not large enough to need its own lawyers in-house, consistently using the same outside general counsel offers many of the same benefits.
3. Consider this: Your business is ready.
How do you know when it’s time to have outside general counsel you can call on for your business? It’s when everything is bigger — the contracts, the revenue, the staff, the potential risks — and there’s more on the line. That’s when your business is ready.
There are business lawyers ready, willing and committed to serving businesses of all sizes. Some of us, my practice included, have subscription models that can fit the needs of all sorts of growing businesses with all sorts of growing needs.
It might just make sense to pay a monthly fee so that you will have the same professional who knows you taking care of your business all year long. Perhaps the cost of doing business is having dedicated outside general counsel handling everything — the deals, contracts, service level agreements — you know are coming while also blocking and tackling everything you don’t know about or don’t see coming.
Bottom line: Your business lawyer — whether that’s me or another qualified attorney — can serve you best when she’s looking not just at one contract or one legal hurdle to get past but the big picture. The more information and access I have — or your outside general counsel has — the better for you and your business.
"That’s how you stay one or two or more steps ahead. "