document handover across tableBusinesses should have a trusted lawyer to watch their back on everything. It is hard to overstate the value of a lawyer who truly knows your business. It can easily be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars over just a few years. Lawyers (along with accountants) should hold a special place of esteem in your business’s heart.

Outsourcing your general legal needs to a small firm can save your business big bucks.  If you don’t need a GC on staff full time, then avoid paying the full time salary and benefits and look to a small firm with business savvy to fill the gap. It’s like having your general counsel “on call.”  Pay when you need; don’t pay when you don’t.

So let’s be clear; when I say “outsource,” I mean, send your legal business to a local lawyer, who knows the ropes and who can work with you to provide sophisticated legal services on a budget.  I do not mean, send your legal work to India.  I also don’t mean, hire a big, expensive law firm on a traditional retainer.

Do Not Hire A Lawyer on a Service Like oDesk or Elance.

Outsourcing your legal work to a cheap lawyer out of state, or to lawyers in India, may seem like a good way to get advice for $20 an hour when your local lawyer charges $400. But unless your lawyer is licensed in your jurisdiction and knows the local laws, they won’t be able to spot the tricky nuances that you are hiring a lawyer to spot in the first place. Nothing replaces experience, legal networks, and reality-based judgment. Anyone can copy and paste or give you legal platitudes from cases. Only a local, experienced lawyer can tell you how things are in the real world.

In fact, it is a crime to practice law without a license.  Lawyers you get online may not be licensed in your jurisdiction. Every jurisdiction’s laws are different, and that doesn’t just mean country-to-country, that also means, state-to-state, county-to-county and court-to-court.  I don’t mean to belabor the point: you don’t need to work only with the lawyer in the office next door.  But the smart money is on a lawyer who practices in, and is licensed by, your state. There are some legal services that can be properly and efficiently outsourced to other countries.  But the key is having your regular lawyer supervise this and advise you when it is a good idea.

Do Not Hire A Paralegal to Do A Lawyer’s Job

Sometimes I see paralegals advertise their contract drafting or litigation services. I think that paralegals are a great way to reduce your legal costs and should be used by lawyers for efficiency. But hiring a paralegal to do a lawyer’s job is like hiring a nurse to do a surgeon’s job. Nurses are adjuncts; not the doctors. Paralegals are the same. They are clerks, not an off-label version of the same product provided by skillful attorneys.

Why A Regularly Engaged General Counsel Will Save You Money

If you are a growing business, you probably hired an employee General Counsel (or thought about it) because you didn’t want to pay big firm bucks that come with hourly billing.  After all, you can get full time legal services for a third of what a big law firm will charge you for the same amount of time devoted to your legal needs.  Having General Counsel on staff is great for a couple reasons.  First, you have someone who knows your business and acts as your partner.  Second, you can always pick up the phone or have a quick face-to-face chat without thinking, “this conversation is costing me $40 every six minutes.”

But if you do not need a full time lawyer, that’s an expensive employee to keep on the payroll. And if you try to job share the lawyer with management duties, you run the risk of the lawyer’s work become discoverable. What that means is that the lawyer’s advice could lose its confidentiality, which is one of the major advantages of having a lawyer.

There is a third option: arranging with a smaller firm to provide general counsel out-of-house on monthly retainers or similar fee packages. You can work out a fee arrangement with that lawyer that meets your budget and covers your legal needs, without breaking the bank.  Look for lawyers who specialize in this type of service, and have proven business experience (such as past experience as a general counsel or as a business owner, or in advising businesses in this capacity for a period of time). The most important thing to remember is that you want a quality, experienced lawyer who can demonstrate their value in your transactions and with other clients. (That advice goes for all lawyer hires, in fact.)

Check out our packages for an affordable outsourced General Counsel. It could be a wise solution for your business.

Alicia Dearn

Alicia Dearn

CEO + Trial Lawyer at Bellatrix PC
Ms. Dearn gives sharp and insightful legal counsel to entrepreneurs and employers so they can advance their businesses fearlessly. She fixes legal problems.
Alicia Dearn