A in-house counsel is a valuation member of your company’s management team. Companies are well served by taking the steps necessary to secure a counsel who performs well and fits within the company’s culture. To do this, it is important to understand the role of the in-house counsel, the legal skills required of the job, and what you should look for to determine which counsel would be best suited for the position to manage your company’s legal matters.
Role of the In-House Counsel
An in-house counsel serves three primary roles in the company — legal advisor, representative, and service provider. Her primary role is that of legal advisor. She will spot legal issues of the concern to the company that arise in company operations. Further, she will provide legal advice to company professionals on how to comply with the law when carrying out any company task. The second role of the in-house counsel is that of service provider. She will be called upon to provide such tasks a contract drafting, corporate governance compliance, claims support, intellectual property capture, property transfer, etc. The third main area of service to the company is that of professional representative.
What Skills are Required of In House Counsel?
First and foremost, an in-house counsel must be able to identify potential legal issues. Once identified, she will need to provide legal advice to the company to avoid running afoul of the law. To perform this function well, the counsel must be able to research any number of legal issues. Further, she will need to translate her legal advice and guidance for company employees to follow. Common areas of legal advice include:
- Regulatory compliance – Depending upon the industry or nature of the business, the company may be subject to any number of regulatory compliance laws. This is particularly true for companies producing products, harmful substances, collecting consumer information, making loans, or selling security instruments. Your in-house attorney must understand your companies regulatory compliance.
- Corporate governance – All business entities are subject to some level of corporate governance requirements. For example, state corporate law requires a corporation adhere to meeting and voting requirements.
- Employment laws – Employers must meet numerous disclosure requirements regarding workplace hazards, rights disclosures, or reporting discrimination. Further, the company must avoid discriminatory practices when hiring, firing, or compensating employees.
- Customer privacy – Numerous consumer privacy laws apply to consumer and financial information. Complying with these laws generally requires adequate notice.
- Advertising – Customer advertising requires compliance with numerous consumer protection laws. The applicable laws depend largely upon the nature of the company’s business. Your in-house attorney should understand how these laws affect your company business.
- Intellectual Property – Technology-based companies deal extensively with securing and protecting intellectual property rights.
These are simply common areas of legal knowledge required of an in-house counsel. Most companies will also require a routine set of services by the in-house counsel. Most notably, the in-house counsel will need to be proficient in contract review and drafting, as most companies employ some form of purchase or sales or services contracts. Also, the in-house counsel may be actively involved in orchestrating corporate compliance procedures or specific transactions.
Lastly, she will be the face of the company for all legal matters. In-house counsel may be ill equipped to handle certain legal matters, such as major litigation. As such, she must work with outside legal professionals to meet the company’s demands. Her responsibilities might include locating and hiring outside counsel to represent the company in specific matters. She will provide the necessary support to the outside counsel and provide status update or progress reports to the company executives. With this in mind, the counsel must have a network of outside counsel. Further, she must have adequate communication skills to be able to manage and translate a variety of complex legal situations into easily digestible information for the company’s executives.
Identifying the Best Counsel for the Position
A company should seek to identify a counsel with the skills and abilities to meet these company needs. It may be difficult for a non-legal professional to assess an attorney’s skills or knowledge. As such, it may be necessary to rely on the counsel’s reputation in the community, work experience, individual accomplishments, or former client evaluations.
Perhaps as important as the counsel’s legal skills is her fit within the company. The in-house counsel will be a regulator advisor to other company professionals. This will require a positive working relationship and environment. As such, it is important to make certain that a counsel’s personality fits well with those of other professionals. The company might employ personality tests to identify compatible personality types.
Lastly, the company must identify a counsel who is motivated by what the company has to offer. Employee motivation is the subject of extensive leadership research and writing. Salary, alone, is rarely adequate to fully motivate an employee. An in-house counsel, like all other employees, is motivated by an environment that meets her underlying needs. This could be salary, recognition, control over work, schedule, team or individual work environment, work-life balance, etc. As such, a company should seek to identify the motivational aspects of employment that the company can offer and matching those with a particular candidate. Identifying these aspects about the candidate may provide difficult, as the only way to make these determinations is to query the potential employee.
LawTrades Can Help
The extensive network of legal professionals at LawTrades can help you with the process of identifying and hiring a company in-house counsel. Also consider letting LawTrades be your outsourced, in-house counsel.