One of the competitive advantages that many large businesses have is that of an in-house lawyer, or team of lawyers, known as “in-house counsel”. These are usually full-time lawyers embedded within the business, available to give advice at a moment’s notice and take care of drafting all legal documentation.
There are significant advantages to having a legal resource like this at a company’s beck and call, as it allows lawyers to provide advice as part of the day-to-day running of the business, minimising the risk and cost of future legal issues arising which might have been prevented.
With the advances in communications technology available to professionals, it is now more open for business to benefit from the services of in-house counsel by virtual means.
What virtual in-house counsel does
Virtual in-house counsel is able to assist businesses in a variety of ways, which include:
- Assisting in transactional matters, such as drafting and negotiating contracts, deeds, agreements and policies, and developing and updating contract templates according to new laws and industry practices.
- Developing and overseeing efficient and legally compliant internal and external processes, including drafting internal policies, and training and educating staff and clients on legal risk management issues.
- Providing ongoing advice as to strategic plans and proposals.
- Advising and representing businesses in resolving disputes pre-litigation.
- Reviewing and advising as to corporate governance.
- Handling property and equipment purchase, sale or lease.
- Dealing with employment issues.
- Providing regular reporting and transparency as to as to the legal services being rendered.
- Building an intimate knowledge of the needs and practices of your specific business and incorporating this into non-generic legal advice.
- Supplementing any existing in-house team in the event that an existing team may be under pressure due to large projects or scant resources or filling temporary staff absences.
Advantages of virtual in-house counsel
There are a number of advantages in having virtual in-house counsel:
- Having a lawyer on demand – Clients have a lawyer available to respond to day-to-day legal problems as they arise, whether expected or unexpected, big or small.
- Whole firm capacity – With virtual in-house counsel, clients can receive the support of a whole firm rather than simply lawyers who happen to be incorporated within the organisation.
- Variety of communication methods – Depending on preference, virtual in-house counsel can be available to set times via email, phone, skype or even face-to-face meetings when necessary, according to location.
- Flexibility – Virtual in-house counsel can be available according to need, and you can budget how many hours or days you require counsel to be available each week or month, with the option to change according to circumstances and workflow.
- Integration and familiarity with your business – Virtual in-house counsel has the advantage of being retained not only on the question of isolated, specific legal issues, but puts in the effort to get to know the ins and outs of your specific business, and is a readily available resource to you for contextualised and tailored legal advice.
- Proactivity – Rather than waiting to address legal risks after they have already turned into costly disputes, virtual in-house counsel can point out, smooth over and/or bolster any areas liable to raise legal issues.
- Expanding of legal resources – Virtual in-house counsel can work together with or supplement any existing legal advice or resources a business has already employed or retained on a short- or long-term basis.
- Legal cost savings – Virtual in-house counsel can be retained in a variety of ways, whether on a monthly “time budget”, or at set times per week – this may allow a business to budget its anticipated legal costs more closely than retaining a firm on a billable hour basis or employing a full-time legal practitioner where workflow may be variable.
If you think virtual in-house counsel may be the right thing for your business, please feel free to contact our office for any further discussion of your options.