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How to decide whether you need an in-house legal team

For many growing businesses, and especially for companies just starting out there can be many points at which you need to consult a legal professional- from writing contracts to getting to grips with the rules around intellectual property. You may have a lawyer who you regularly seek counsel from, or perhaps you outsource whole legal projects to a firm and wonder if it’s cheaper to bring in your own in-house team.

If so, you’re not alone. The last few years have seen a growth in the number of solicitors working in-house, and the Law Society’s report ‘The Future of Legal Services’ predicts that the traditional law firm model will be in decline by 2020, with a movement towards more in-house teams. There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to bring your legal counsel in-house, whether that means one lawyer or a whole legal team.

Future need

As with so many business decisions, you need to look to the future when deciding on the best solution to your legal needs. If your company is growing then you might need help with scaling up staff, acquiring commercial property and other changes that require legal support. You may wish to bring in outside legal counsel for each process as and when it is required, without being tied down into paying for a full time team. In more broad terms, there are changes on the horizon which affect most businesses- the changes in data legislation for one, not to mention Brexit. These could throw up new legal issues that your business hasn’t previously faced, so having your own in-house team to consult can help you to weather the storm.

Business Function

Consider the nature of the legal work that is required by your business when considering whether to bring in your own legal team. When you seek legal counsel from outside, solicitors will be able to provide advice only and you will need to make the ultimate decision yourself. If you want a more hands-on approach, it could be worth adding a senior lawyer to your management team to not only inform you but also to help make those key business decisions. On the other hand, if you simply need help with day-to-day work such as preparing contracts and overseeing deals then your legal requirements will look very different.

Cost

While for some companies the cost of bringing on full-time staff can be prohibitive, it is worth taking the time to compare the costs and the resulting benefits of both options. For some businesses the type of work that they do requires regular assistance with legal processes- for example if you do a lot of contract work for large organisations, or create a lot of products which require patents or other intellectual property protection. If there is a consistent need for expert guidance on these types of matters then having your own in-house counsel can make things easier by speeding up the process, negating the need for lengthy briefings and even being part of the initial planning, costing you less in the long-term.

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