As an emerging business, you may not need a full-time lawyer on your payroll, i.e. you probably do not have enough legal issues to keep an attorney busy full time. Instead, what you might need is an attorney “on call.”
An “on call” attorney, otherwise known as an “outside general counsel,” is a lawyer who you engage on a regular basis to consult with about legal issues as they arise. The benefit of establishing a relationship with one attorney to act as your outside general counsel is that the attorney will become knowledgeable about your business and will be able to handle your legal issues with a more complete perspective of your goals. In contrast, an attorney that you call only when you have a fire drill will not have this same perspective and may not be able to help you to put out the fire in the most efficient, least disruptive way.
The advice of good counsel can help you to succeed. An experienced lawyer can (1) help you to organize your company so that you have the greatest flexibility for growth and so that you are attractive to investors and (2) help you avoid many legal pitfalls of everyday operations so that your company can stay on a path to success. As I’ve previously explained, the counsel of a good attorney can help you to lower your risk of being sued.
The key here is a good working relationship. When you are thinking of engaging an outside general counsel, you want to find someone whose judgment you trust. You will be sharing secrets with your attorney, so it’s important that you find an attorney that you like. You want an attorney who believes in you and your vision, and who is willing to make your business a priority.
Engaging an outside general counsel sounds expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. First, you pay for your outside general counsel as you call on him or her for advice. Second, you do not need to hire a $1,000/hour attorney. You need someone who is smart, capable, and eager to work for you.
There are many law firms of all sizes at all price points that provide outside general counsel services. To find the one that is right for your business, you should consider the firm’s accessibility (nearby or offer electronic access to information), experience, and the cost. You want a high value firm, not necessarily a high cost one.
Should you look for a corporate law firm or a litigation firm? This depends on the stage of your business and your goals for your business. A litigator or an attorney with litigation experience may be better at spotting risks than an attorney who is focused on regulatory filings. You want a lawyer who can solve your company’s particular problems when they arise. That may mean you need a lawyer with access to other lawyers who have special skills if and when you ever need them.
Felicello Law offers outside general counsel services. Please sign up here.