Many small and medium-sized businesses are “in the cold” when it comes to working with a business attorney. Most of the time, it doesn’t make much sense for a small business to have a full-time attorney on staff. Lawyers are expensive, and most small businesses don’t have enough legal work to keep one busy full time. However, the unfortunate result of this is that many small businesses do not get legal help when they really need it, before making important decisions that could have costly consequences. Typically, attorneys who work in private practice with small businesses work on projects: the client hires the attorney to draft a contract, negotiate a deal, or form an entity. Once the project is complete, the client does not call the attorney again until another project comes up. It is unusual for lawyers to become an integral part of the business decision-making process within the company. As a result, companies are often surprised by legal problems that could easily have been avoided with a little help and advice from an attorney familiar with their business and industry.
Small businesses can also benefit from a general counsel
Many smaller companies would greatly benefit from forming an “external general counsel” (OGC) relationship with a qualified and experienced attorney. In the same way that large corporations employ dozens of in-house attorneys to oversee and provide insight into all facets of the corporation’s operations, an outside general counsel can provide information and assistance to business owners and managers seeking to avoid pitfalls. legal and take advantage of opportunities. As the name suggests, the attorney is not an employee of the company. Instead, he or she is a trusted outside advisor to the leadership team, offering legal advice on a regular basis. Rather than calling the attorney only when something goes wrong, the business owner, the leadership team, and the attorney meet regularly to brainstorm and ensure that the company’s plans don’t raise any legal red flags. Bearing in mind the old adage that “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,” the role of the OGC is to prevent problems before they occur. And if unforeseeable issues arise, outside legal counsel is perfectly positioned to address those issues without spending costly billable hours “catching up” on the client’s unique business, key players, and industry issues.
External General Counsel can bring in specialists as needed
Another benefit of working with an outside general attorney is that the attorney tends to get to know other attorneys in other disciplines. Few lawyers are general practitioners anymore; In this age of specialization, clients rarely receive good service from a lawyer who claims to offer everything to everyone. Instead, a client can save valuable time and resources by seeking qualified OGC referrals when a specialized need arises. In this way, the OGC becomes the go-to source for all legal issues.
If the OGC can handle the problem internally, then it will. For problems or projects outside the scope of OGC practice, trained and experienced colleagues can provide solutions with input and guidance from OGC. Clients do not have to spend time and money searching for an attorney who specializes in employment law, securities law, or the UCC. The OGC can bring allied professionals to the table.
Many business owners avoid an ongoing relationship with an attorney, worried that regular contact will be costly. However, experience suggests that the opposite is true. Clients who take the time to meet with their OGC on a regular basis tend to find that the business runs more smoothly and efficiently, and that problems rarely get out of hand. In contrast, business owners who wait until the last minute to call an attorney often find that small issues that could have been easily handled early on turn into costly and lengthy litigation – the nightmare of any small business. As in many areas of life and business, it is much easier to perform routine maintenance than it is to do expensive repairs. A good experienced outside general counsel can help a business stay focused, control costs, and avoid problems.