Working in-house is great. I’ve been doing it for years. You get normalish working hours, a nice variety of matters in the workload, the chance to interact with and learn from non-lawyers (I’ve learned quite a bit about civil engineering over the years), the ease and satisfaction of having a permanent client there every day at the office.
From my experience, working in-house turns you into a generalist – you need to know something about a few practice areas, especially if your organization has various divisions doing different things. You may have one type of practice you usually focus on, but it is likely you’ll be asked to work on other matters outside of your standard work. If you handle environmental issues you may be brought in to work on land use or real estate projects. If you have a background handling contracts for municipal water supply, you could be brought in to handle an IT contract dispute. This has been my experience working in larger organizations with multiple business lines that have comparatively small legal shops.
This points to one of the “issues” (not really a problem in the negative sense, but more of a limitation due to its structure) of the smaller in-house legal shop. As always, there are two sides to things, a good and a bad, pros and cons. While working in-house can certainly bring its own level of satisfaction, there are drawbacks that come with the territory. I can sum this up with one word: Resources. Or the lack thereof – there are always budgets and hiring limits to consider. When you get a thorny issue that your in-house shop doesn’t really have the right coverage for, the traditional go-to would be to call your outside counsel for advice, assuming your organization has outside counsel contracted and on a fresh retainer.
If not, then you may have to rush to retain a firm, with the procurement challenges and the hamstringing of your negotiating position. Even with a law firm on board, there is this perennial issue: the outside counsel’s monthly invoice. The dollars. It can be hard enough managing the substantive side of the relationship, making sure the firm understands what the issue is and what your shop needs as a deliverable. Managing the time expended by outside counsel can be a near-constant endeavor, and often happens after the fact, where it can be hard to claw back billed time the lawyers have put on their invoice. In the small legal shop, there is usually a reluctance to spend these sums, even where there is confidence outside counsel could deliver (although there are instances where outside counsel submits something that the in-house lawyers essentially need to rework from the ground up – another issue with this set-up). So, what’s to be done? What’s an effective solution here?
Given our wonderful state of online commerce, platforms like LAWCLERK can step in to fill the gap and provide expertise on certain matters that don’t warrant full referral to the outside firm. When your in-house shop gets that request from some part of your organization that needs fairly immediate attention and none of your in-house folks can confidently supply the answer, the solution is to turn to a pool of licensed, experienced freelance lawyers to provide the answer.
Your shop controls the assignment from day one, and can limit the assignment or expand on it as needed. You have the efficiency of a finely tuned platform to find the expertise and confidently choose a freelancer with the right kind of experience to address your issue and provide the deliverable you are looking for. There are team-building opportunities where you can select a group of freelancers who have the background you’re looking for, experience with matters your shop usually gets, which lets you do some future planning. There are efficiencies built into this platform; there’s no need to deal with cumbersome retainer agreements or overly involved, lengthy procurement processes. It also avoids some of the unknowns that can come along when dealing with attorney placement (read “temp”) agencies. And it avoids those padded costs that agencies like to put in their agreements.
The bottom line is that the efficiencies and quality a platform like LAWCLERK brings to the table make it the go-to for small in-house shops seeking to either research and address specific questions, or build a team of freelancers that are ready and available to provide the expertise when needed. Your shop controls the costs, not the other way around.