Seeking commercial legal advice is not necessarily a choice between hiring an in-house counsel or engaging a traditional law firm. For some businesses, it may be more efficient to find the middle ground: that of outsourcing in-house legal services, which brings the flexibility of being able to turn to someone you trust, that knows your business and is available as and when you need them, without the burden of employing a lawyer or incurring the high fees of traditional law firms.
Whilst in-house lawyers are, by their very nature, a direct cost-centre, they facilitate the smooth running of the business and help to embed good practices, mitigate risks, stay ahead of regulatory change (something that is inevitable these days) and avoid costly mistakes in the long-run. Whilst external lawyers will never be as integrated into the business as their in-house counterparts, they can still be treated as one of the team, providing similar benefits without the costs and risks associated with employing a lawyer.
For businesses without in-house legal resources, an external “in-house” counsel can save you both time and money: saving time by liaising on your behalf with external professional advisers and other third parties (in the fund context, this might include fund directors and other fund service providers); and saving money through the more efficient and selective use of traditional law firms. For businesses that already have established legal teams, an external “in-house” counsel can augment the skills and capacity of the existing in-house team in times of need. In both cases, external “in-house” counsel can bring practical insights from across the industry, acting as a sounding board to senior management, and provide flexible, local advice to global businesses that are looking for greater oversight in their affiliated or satellite offices.
Of course, an outsourced “in-house” counsel, just like his or her in-house counterpart, is not going to have all the answers or the capacity to deal with large transactions. And clearly that is where the traditional law firms step in. However, in-house counsel (whether outsourced or not) can help firms sift through a wide range of issues relating to the day-to-day running of the business, identify those areas that can be dealt with internally and those where specialist advise is prudent.