Hiring part-time executives is nothing new. Most of us have heard of companies bringing in fractional Chief Financial Officers or Chief Marketing Officers to help support their organization.
But when it comes to hiring legal counsel, many businesses aren’t aware that there is an alternative to the traditional model of hiring a law firm. Hiring fractional in-house counsel offers several benefits over using the services of a traditional law firm.
What is fractional in-house counsel?
Fractional in-house counsel provides legal support to businesses who might deal with a large volume of legal work, but are not yet at the point where they need full-time in-house counsel. The fractional model allows them to hire a qualified lawyer on a part-time basis. This flexible way of working is perfect for start-ups, small- to medium-sized businesses and those looking to hire in-house counsel for the first time.
[Read our blog post: The dangers of a DIY legal mindset]
It’s also a great solution to help gap-fill when a business needs to supplement their current in-house team on a short-term basis, or when they have a significant upcoming critical project that their existing team can’t manage on their own.
How does fractional in-house counsel differ from traditional in-house counsel?
Simply put, fractional in-house counsel is not an employee of the company. With traditional in-house counsel, a company must pay employment benefits, taxes and overhead, as well as the lawyer’s salary.
With a fractional in-house counsel, a company benefits from having a part-time lawyer work in-house without having to pay the high costs of a full-time employee.
The benefits of hiring fractional in-house counsel for your organization
We’ve rounded up the top advantages of retaining fractional in-house counsel services for your organization.
1) Fractional in-house counsel can be deeply integrated into your business
Building long-term relationships is critical in business. But often, when you hire an external law firm, your relationship can be very transactional. You require a specific legal service, they provide it, and then they send you the bill.
With a fractional in-house counsel, you have an in-house lawyer that becomes part of your organization. They’ll get to know your team, attend key business meetings, dig down into your financials, and proactively spot problems and issues before they arise.
This desire to find a legal partner who intimately understands your business was echoed in Thomson Reuters 2023 Canadian Legal Market Update. The report showed that: “Corporate clients in Canada are significantly more likely to favour outside law firms that are able to demonstrate an unmatched understanding of their client’s business and provide advice in a practical manner.”
[Read our blog post: How to choose a start-up lawyer]
Often, your fractional in-house counsel can tell you about critical legal work that needs to be done that you may not have considered. In the best-case scenarios, you’ll bring in fractional in-house counsel that integrates into your team so seamlessly that other team members will think they’re a full-time member of the company.
2) You get veteran legal expertise
When businesses need outside legal support but have tight budgets, they’ll often look to work with junior lawyers who charge a lower hourly rate than senior lawyers with more experience. This means they’re getting less professional expertise, which can often require more time, and generally still requires someone within the business to manage the relationship.
With fractional in-house counsel, you’ll get a highly qualified legal partner who can operate independently and support both the day-to-day legal work and more strategic compliance projects. People who choose to be fractional in-house counsel will often have a background working in-house at established, blue-chip companies and have years – if not decades – of experience operating in a practical, business-minded way.
[Read our blog post: Why lawyers with in-house legal counsel experience are so valuable]
This means they are focused on working alongside a team to help solve legal challenges in the most efficient and effective way possible, rather than just simply carrying out transactional type legal services.
3) It’s more cost-effective
Most businesses can’t afford to hire full-time in-house counsel and inevitably look to expensive traditional firms to support their basic day-to-day legal work. However, those high hourly fees eat into budgets and generally also means only the most urgent – rather than strategic legal work gets completed. What’s more, if a company looks to outsource the work to a traditional firm, they’ll also still need someone within the business to project manage the work.
[Read our blog post: Do high law firm rates equal high quality?]
Fractional in-house counsel enables businesses to bring in qualified, experienced, and trusted experts on a part-time basis to manage the entire legal function. With a fractional in-house counsel model, you benefit from having a deeply integrated legal partner for a fixed monthly fee, and you never need to worry about being ‘on the clock’.
4) Fractional legal counsel provides more cost certainty
It’s easy for CEOs and CFOs – busy with a myriad of other tasks – to lose track of how much is being spent on legal fees. They’ll often engage in transactional legal work on a weekly basis and end up with a huge bill at the end of the month. In fact, it’s not hard for new businesses to rack up tens of thousands of dollars in monthly legal bills.
When hiring a fractional in-house counsel, you agree to costs up-front and have the opportunity to embed an experienced legal professional into your management team on a part-time basis. This fractional in-house counsel can work anywhere from one to four days a week, which can be scaled up or down on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on the needs of your business.
If a project runs over, or you need more time, most agreements are flexible, and any additional fees are agreed to beforehand. This means you aren’t left with the shock of a sky-high bill at the end of the month. This cost certainty of ‘on-demand counsel’ is invaluable for business leaders who need predictable, flat costs month over month to run their organization profitably and within budget.
5) It can help clarify your legal roadmap
Many CEOs and CFOs know they need legal support – but without a law degree, they don’t know exactly what is required. This means they often end up vastly underestimating the amount of work that needs to be done.
Frequently, they believe they can do it themselves and end up with less-than-stellar results. Alternatively, they may engage a firm only to receive a 20-page memorandum on an issue, when all they required was a quick 10-minute answer.
[Read our blog post: Diagnose the condition of your legal operations with our Legal Health Assessment]
When you bring a qualified part-time legal executive on board, they will often start with a legal assessment of your organization to understand your risk tolerances and build a roadmap for your business.
6) Fractional legal counsel allows your senior team to re-focus
CEOs and CFOs are spread thin. They wear many hats and juggle many responsibilities within their organization, doubly so if they’re a start-up. In fact, they might spend up to 20% or more of their time managing legal matters. This means they’re spending valuable time managing legal work rather than focusing on their actual job.
Hiring a fractional legal executive removes the demand on executives’ time. This means instead of spending their time delegating and managing the legal work, they’re able to concentrate on growing the business.
Are you ready to hire fractional in-house counsel?
Fractional in-house counsel isn’t the right answer all the time. But for many companies who need experienced legal support, predictable and reasonable fees and a lawyer who will invest time to understand their business – a part-time legal executive might be the best way to go.
If your business is considering fractional in-house counsel, Caravel Law is an alternative legal firm with over 80 qualified and experienced lawyers to help support your legal needs. Get in touch with our team today to find out more.
The information provided in this article is not intended to be legal advice. Many factors unknown to us may affect the applicability of this content to your particular circumstances.