As your business continues to evolve, you may begin to realise the need to hire an in-house lawyer. Whilst the individuals in this position are most likely to be aware of the reasoning behind doing so, this article addresses some of the collated points from those MD’S, CEO’s and CFO’s who have made this important decision for their company.
Knowing your business
No external lawyer will know your business, the work, or the people and the overall objectives better than an in-house lawyer. Having a lawyer who is dedicating all of their time and skills to your business could pay huge dividends because your business is their business.
The in-house lawyer will operate with the businesses key objectives in mind throughout all dealings, ensuring that negotiations and transactions will be carried out more efficiently and with far more understanding than an external lawyer. Due to this increased understanding, an in-house lawyer may also pick up on areas that an external lawyer might miss.
The typical reason a company would decide to hire an in-house lawyer is when the return on investment, along with the potential savings justifies it. Hiring an external lawyer or firm can be a costly process and if you find yourself in need of a lawyer often, this cost easily becomes justifiable. However, the actual reason may come down to a few factors.
An in-house lawyer should drastically cut down on any further outsourcing costs, especially within their area of expertise. For the areas that still require external support, such as some litigation and corporate activities, your internal lawyer will be able to manage the external costs and liaise with external counsel and as a result, reduce costs. They have a realistic idea of the expenses involved and are able to more efficiently instruct them throughout.
It is important to hire an in-house counsel that has the expertise that your company needs. Focus on hiring an in-house lawyer with experience in the legal activities your business experiences on a day-to-day basis to ensure that the outsourcing requirement is minimised.
In-house lawyers ultimately work to achieve the businesses objectives as efficiently as possible. A good in-house counsel is inherently commercial and will have their feet in two camps, measuring the associated risks while always keeping the commercial objectives at the forefront of their minds, enabling a smooth turnaround time.
Efficiency is essential when finalising deals. When sending contracts to an external counsel to be marked up and returned in different areas of the business, the turnaround time can be drastically delayed which can then slow the deal. In a competitive market, speed and efficiency can be essential to a business’s success.
Effective management of external lawyers
If you have hired an in-house lawyer, they still may be unable to cover all of your legal needs with their expertise. It is impossible to be a specialist on a broad spectrum of legal topics. Some areas may still be outsourced such as tax, patents, litigation and acquisitions.
If you have an in-house lawyer, they would be the perfect person to identify the best individuals for outsourced work - they can manage the external lawyers highly efficiently, which will save time and money. They would then act as a filter, reporting back to the company in a way that everyone understands and with enhanced commercial insight.
Overall strategic legal planning
The duty of an in-house lawyer is to continually provide health checks on the business, bearing in mind the risks, regulatory changes, compliance and corporate governance landscape, whilst continually keeping the commercial objectives of the business in sight. They will be able to provide education and training on requirements and liaise with all stakeholders on issues uniquely prevalent to them.
Investors are reassured when In-house lawyers are seen to be an integral part of the company. It is becoming increasingly common for a commercially astute lawyer to be on the board, contributing to the overall strategic mission and increasing the likelihood of opportunities for growth.
When instructed on a first legal hire, businesses may be concerned that an in-house lawyer would be blocking them from achieving the goals for their business. Whilst a lawyer will always consider the associated risks, and inform the business of these, they should be a facilitator rather than an additional hurdle.
Their job is to ensure deals go through with as few risks as possible and they should also help commercially, leaving the business in a better legal and commercial position. A good in-house lawyer or legal team should be viewed by the business as an enablement function.
An in-house lawyer should forge lasting, positive and trustworthy relationships with each business unit, ensuring that the various teams come to them in times of need, and to provide support in difficult negotiations. They will have high levels of emotional intelligence and be empathetic to the individual and their cause.
Try before you buy
If you are considering hiring an in-house lawyer, but are still not sure, you could try an interim lawyer. Interim lawyers tend to be highly experienced, both technically and also in working within multiple in-house structures, offering a broad level of support for as long as required. If the process was positive, then you could look into hiring them permanently or alternatively beginning a recruitment process.
If you are looking to hire an in-house lawyer then consult someone experienced in recruiting in the market and after hearing your needs, challenges and objectives, they should have good insight into what type of lawyer you will require, along with the associated costs. They can work with you in both writing a job description that will resonate with the legal industry and in managing the entire process.
Managing Consultant, Michael Page Legal
T: 0118 955 9050