May 27, 2023

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'Outsourcing' General Counsel Benefits Business Health

| 4/1/2023

Think of a corporate general counsel much like you would your primary care physician. They are responsible for overseeing all aspects of your company’s or organization’s legal health.

The general counsel’s mission is wide and varied, depending on the needs of the company. This may include bringing a legal eye to internal functions, such as HR, zoning, consumer protection, and contractual relationships with business partners and customers. They also keep watch on wider issues pertaining to legal and regulatory compliance, reporting and registrations, licensing and record retention, governance, taxation and finance, specific to the company’s business or sector.

The general counsel also oversees other counsel engaged to address specific legal needs or situations. These could include litigation and transactions, management of the company’s Environmental, Social and Governance (or ESG) policies or framework, or any of a wide range of matters facing the business.

It’s a far-reaching brief, and because of the expanding influence of ever-changing laws on business complexity, general counsel must be “more than just lawyers.” They increasingly are called upon to serve as senior advisors to management and business strategists.

Why should my company consider an outside general counsel?

Cost savings. Many small and mid-sized businesses cannot afford a full-time counsel with the acumen, experience and expertise the role requires today. It can be more cost-effective and efficient to “share” the services of an experienced attorney.

Access to skilled attorneys. If part of a full-service firm, general counsel can draw on specialized expertise from across the corps of talented attorneys to supplement their knowledge set. This is especially beneficial when unexpected situations arise.

Grow as needed. As a business grows, an external counsel can help develop, organize and staff an internal legal function and manage the transition.

An entrepreneur’s partner. With the demonstrated capability to identify and manage legal needs and evaluate both opportunities, as well as threats and risks, the counsel can then help present reasonable options. They provide a 360-degree vision and an entrepreneur’s spirit to think like an owner to find new ways to get things done.

To set up an external general counsel relationship, seek out references for attorneys skilled in your industry or your particular needs. Once you’ve found an attorney whose skills and styles match your own, they will draft an arrangement that allows for ongoing commitment to your business, while also providing the flexibility to ensure all your legal needs, both known and unanticipated, are covered.

That relationship usually involves a base retainer, with a flex approach that anticipates specialized or high-volume legal services based on a given business or industry’s specific needs. These could include over-and-above business transactions, or crises and litigation.

Like a primary care physician, the general counsel helps care for the business. When crises erupt, their expertise may mitigate damage to protect its long-term health.

Matthew Zifrony
Director with Tripp Scott, Zifrony practices in the areas of entrepreneurial business, commercial real estate, and condominium and HOA.

For more than 50 years, Tripp Scott has played a leadership role in issues that impact business.
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