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I read an article in the Lawyer magazine about a keynote speak Boris Johnson gave to the Global Law Summit exposing the virtue of lawyers and the UK legal system. We all know that Lawyers are amazing…however, as an ex lawyer and in-house legal recruiter I often speak to CEO’s and FD’s who are considering hiring their first lawyer to discuss how a lawyer can add value and will save costs to their business and sometimes it can be difficult for decision makers in business to see what the tangible benefits are of hiring a lawyer.
Recruiting an in-house lawyer can provide significant benefits to a business, both immediately obviously as well as providing ‘hidden’ benefits.
Management of external legal spend
One of the most obvious and immediate benefits of having an in-house lawyer is to manage the business’s current and future legal costs.
It is misleading to think that hiring an in-house lawyer will always reduce your legal costs. It might – an experienced in-house lawyer with knowledge of your sector will quickly be able to determine the most cost-effective external lawyers to use as well as ‘in-sourcing’ work which you may previously have had to instruct outside counsel on.
It may be, though, that in properly managing your company’s legal affairs, extra spend is needed, at least in the short term. Think of this as a preventative health measure. Some of our recent recruits have had to incur modest costs at the start of their new employment to prevent future calamities including registration of trade marks and other intellectual property rights as well as creating proper employment policies.
Perhaps more obviously, the creation of a panel of legal advisers, managed by your in-house lawyer, can lead to significant savings and an improvement in the quality and efficiency of external legal suppliers. One of the most obvious and immediate benefits of having an in-house lawyer is to manage the business’s current and future legal costs.
Creation of legal risk management programmes and activities
Corporate governance is always on the increase (read The Bribery Act) and these requirements have placed more demand on the need for risk management and compliance programmes to be developed and adhered to within business.
Again, the value of these programmes is preventative in nature. An in-house lawyer can play a crucial part in implementing these programmes for the future health of the business and be responsible for the training and monitoring of the programmes internally.
A commercially astute lawyer working closely with the business at the start of any initiative often results in a quicker and more cost-effective implementation of the business plan.
In house lawyers have a better understanding of the business, its products and strategy than external counsel. They will also be able to be more flexible and quicker to respond to the needs of the business resulting in immediate, pragmatic business solutions.
General Commercial Value
Underpinning all the preventative and strategic input of an in-house lawyer is that individual’s commercial input on a day-to-day basis.
An in-house lawyer will assume immediate responsibility for corporate transactional work as well as drafting and negotiating commercial contracts and re-evaluating procurement agreements. Having someone closer to the business in this way will mean this happens more quickly and with an immediately commercial impact. External advisers can then be brought in on specialist matters. During a corporate transaction, an in-house lawyer, managing external corporate lawyers, will effectively free up the directors of the business to concentrate on the business aspects of the deal.
Other key commercial responsibilities include monitoring the company pension, and insurance schemes, undertaking the company secretarial function and handling many property and general contract litigation matters, as well as advising on employment issues.
There are many excellent lawyers looking to make the move in-house for the first time from private practice or alternatively lawyers who are currently already working in industry (that can bring you potentially relevant sector experience) who will be excited by the opportunity to establish a legal function. The main decisions you need to make are what type of lawyer you are looking for and at what level to recruit!