As most small and medium size business (SMB) owners know, litigation and other legal issues can be a fairly common part of owning and running a business. While larger companies may be able to employ a dedicated in-house legal department, many SMBs often decide to hire an independent lawyer or law firm. For some, this might be due to a lack of need, while others may not have the necessary budget to afford that kind of expense. In either case, companies without their own in-house attorney are essentially tasked with managing legal issues themselves.
While that may seem like a manageable task at first, even sole proprietors may come to quickly realize after a single legal dispute that the better alternative is to always have a business lawyer ready and at your disposal. This introduces a whole new challenge of shopping around for an attorney, asking friends and colleagues for recommendations, interviewing several different firms, going through a client onboarding process each time, and ultimately having to repeat the whole process over again for each new legal issue. Having outside counsel in place eliminates that issue.
“Outside Counsel” is an attorney who provides legal services on an as-needed basis, but is not an employee. Many small business owners find that working with the same attorney for all of their needs, from business formation to day-to-day operations, can alleviate most of the stress involved in dealing with legal matters.
Outside counsel firms or attorneys can be hired by a company “on retainer,” meaning that they will: a) usually be available when the company needs them; b) their rate will typically remain the same regardless of the type of legal work being done; c) you get to know your attorney and vice-versa, eliminating wasted time and money at the start of any new client-attorney relationship; and d) even if the legal issue requires specialized knowledge or is outside of the attorney’s practice area(s), he/she will identify the best choice for the matter and continue to manage & monitor each file. This keeps business owners & executives up to date on all issues, assists with keeping business operations consistent, and saves valuable time & money.
Benefits of Outside Counsel
You can’t predict when a legal issue will present itself, and a lot of times it requires a near immediate response. If you don’t already have a legal advisor skilled in handling business matters, you’ll have to spend a lot of time vetting and interviewing candidates at a very inopportune time.
If you’ve engaged an Outside Counsel a head of time, you can simply reach out to them and they will take care of making sure the issue is handled. Furthermore, In-house counsels are typically limited to their particular area of expertise which may require you to hire multiple outside attorneys to handle specific matters that your in-house counsel cannot manage. Alternatively, retaining a law firm as your Outside Counsel provides your business the opportunity get advice form attorneys who specialize in multiple practice areas.
Hiring an attorney as a full-time employee can mean paying a high salary. Plus, as an employee, they may be eligible to collect any employee benefits that your company provides, which is a large added cost. Outside Counsel, however, would not be an employee, would not be eligible to receive any employee benefits.
During your discussion with you Outside Counsel, you should be very frank about your business size, needs, and budget restrictions. A good attorney should present you with options that can fit your budget. You may be able to pay your Outside Counsel as needed, for the work they perform, or as previously mentioned they may offer a fixed-fee option or packages that will allow you to budget and maintain cost certainty with respect to your legal fees.
As a business owner, you should always be prepared for any transaction that could arise. This includes having all of your corporate documentation organized, having well-written agreements, making sure your intellectual property is appropriately registered and protected, and other business maintenance. Outside Counsel can help you keep track of these items and provide suggestions on additional organizational methods.
Your Outside Counsel can not only keep you prepared and your records up to date, but can also regularly perform a “due diligence” reviews, contract language updates, and a risk analysis of your business.
What Role Will Outside Counsel Play?
- Advisor: spots potential problems, researches legal issues and provides guidance.
- Representative: serves as primary point of contact for all of the business’ legal issues.
- Service Facilitator: provides numerous legal services to the company regarding contracts, procedures, human resource issues, corporate governance and employment.
Issues That Outside Counsel Can Assist With
Outside Counsel can perform a variety of tasks, from some of the more typical tasks that a business may need (i.e. providing general legal advice, negotiating lease agreements, managing employment issues, contract review etc.) to complex matters like litigation and intellectual property protection.
There are several advantages to having consistent legal advice for your small business, including support for:
|*Business structure and formation |
*Obtaining corporate financing
*Negotiating real estate transactions
*Assessing regulatory risks and mitigating solutions
|*Drafting employment agreements |
*Developing human resources policies
*Corporate records maintenance
Hiring Outside Counsel can help you obtain everything described above while also sticking to your budget. Additionally, by working with the same business attorney, overtime, you will develop a relationship with a lawyer who gets to know the nuances of your business and can offer more personalized advise & service. Most importantly, this allows business owner(s) to focus on managing & growing their business.
To learn more about retaining Outside General Counsel for your business, contact Capital Partners Law. Our “Outside General Counsel Program“ (OGCP) is an ideal choice for many small and mid-sized businesses that encounter legal issues from time to time or just need guidance from a knowledgeable business attorney that can provide immense value to their business.
What Should You Do Next?
If you are interested in learning more or speaking with an attorney at Capital Partners Law, there are plenty of ways to get in touch:
- Call us toll-free at (833) 7-CAPLAW.
- Find your nearest office and call to schedule a free consultation.
- Complete our New Client Request Form online. (No obligation – an attorney will review your information and contact you to discuss your needs).
- Schedule a Free Initial Phone Consultation online now.
- Schedule a Free Initial Video Consultation online now.
This article is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader nor should it be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact our firm.