(In-House / Out-House Counsel)
Starting your own business is a tremendous undertaking, but successfully maintaining and continuing that business can be an even more difficult task. You need to understand things like contracts and risk management, and the legalities associated with them. You also need to determine which entity is best to structure your business after. It’s best to partner with attorneys that can help you understand these complications so that your business will thrive rather than fail before it can reach its potential. And while it may seem like using in-house legal counsel will make things easier in the long term, it isn’t always the best option.
What is In-House Counsel?
In-house counsel refers to lawyers who are employed by a company and handle a wide variety of legal responsibilities on behalf of the business. In-house counsel generally cover a large practice area as they are responsible for everyday legal tasks, risk management duties, and conflicts that may arise unexpectedly. Because they must handle a wide variety of challenges, in-house counsel should be well versed in several areas of law, including intellectual property rights, litigation, contracts, privacy issues, federal and state labor, employment laws, and more. However, in situations where more assistance is needed, it is often necessary to call upon the help of additional outside attorneys.
Because an in-house counsel is regular employee, the business will provide a work space and may pay insurance and other benefits.
What is Out-House Counsel?
As the name implies, out-house counsel attorneys serve a business without being direct employees of the business itself. They are part of a law firm and may work as counsel for multiple companies at once. Out-house counsel can be hired for hourly rates or kept on retainer to match a client’s specific legal needs. Any law firm in New York providing out-house counsel only employs attorneys who meet all the requirements to practice law in the state.
Out-house counsel is seen by many business owners as the best alternative to having their own dedicated legal department. They can be called upon on an as-needed basis to address legal concerns, which can have less of a budgetary impact than hiring in-house. And since they aren’t employees, you don’t have to provide them a physical space for them to work or other benefits of an employee.
In-House vs. Out-House Counsel
To a small business, the question of which type of council to choose may seem difficult. However, a closer examination of the pros and cons of each choice should reveal an answer for that business needs.
In-house counsel will work just for you and you alone, allowing them to dedicate their time exclusively to your concerns. Their overall costs are easy to figure out and work into your budget; as employees, they would earn a regular salary. However, because in-house counsel deals with so many general issues, you may find they don’t specialize in any specific areas. Also of concern is the fact that New York allows for attorneys who aren’t admitted to the State Bar to practice as in-house counsel, and such attorneys may not be well versed in New York law.
By comparison, out-house counsel is trained specifically to work in the state of New York and are very familiar with the landscape. What’s more, law firms have attorneys who are trained to work in specialized areas of the law. Because of this, they have more extensive knowledge and experience than in-house counsel and can provide a wider range of services to their clients. Another strength of out-house counsel is that they aren’t limited solely to your resources and are able to take as much time as they need to come up with the right solutions to your problems. In-house, by contrast, are limited to what you make available to them and will often work quickly, with or without concrete evidence to back up their actions, especially if you’re facing multiple issues at one time.
Out-House Counsel Is Best for Your Needs
Out-house counsel is better suited for the needs of small businesses than in-house counsel. They require less of your attention, time, and resources. They only get paid for the work you have them do (unless you choose to pay a retainer fee) and are specialized in different areas of law that in-house attorneys simply aren’t. The experience of out-house attorneys allows them to tackle tough legal issues in a thorough manner that will always be in the best interest of your business. Out-house counsel is the best option for those who want to be prepared for anything.