What an In-House Counsel Does, and Why Every Business Needs One

registered agent service business meeting

We talk a lot about being an “in-house counsel team,” “general counsel,” and “attorney on-call” but have yet to really explain what this means. To be honest, the whole idea of a general counsel attorney for a business was foreign to me until I went to law school. Once I found out what it entailed, I was enthralled!

What is an “In-House Counsel?”

An in-house attorney is simply the legal department for their client-business. That means that the lawyer constantly reviews changes in the law, advises his client on those changes so that the business can strategically take advantage of the new laws or regulations.

The legal “department” is constantly reviewing and updating the business’s legal documents, such as employment contracts, agreements with third-party vendors or distributors, partnership agreements, and of course contracts that come across the business owner’s desk from time to time.

Perhaps most importantly, though, the general counsel attorney is there to answer questions and advise the business-client. Entrepreneurs have a tendency to have a lot of questions, all of which are very important:

  • If I set up a partnership with this competitor, how can I structure it so that there’s the least amount of risk from a legal standpoint?
  • Most of my workers are 1099s. Is that okay to do or do I need to pay worker’s comp and payroll taxes?
  • Will my company protect me personally from liabilities or can people come after my personal assets?
  • Will I be able to get out of this commercial lease agreement if my business struggles a lot?

Why Have a Legal Department for Your Business?

The concept of having an in-house counsel attorney that knows your business and is there to answer your questions and concerns as they arise is an old one that is quickly getting “replaced” with Google searches. This is, of course, cheaper for the business in the short run, but in the long run, taking risks like this could drive a company into the ground.

Knowing how a given law or contractual provision will affect a particular unique business requires two things: First, you need an attorney that understands the laws that apply to that particular contract and how a court is likely to rule on the issue should it ever be litigated.

Second, and more importantly, that attorney needs to know that unique business; the lawyer has to know what the business is concerned about, what they are likely to do in the future, that business’s competitors and industry, and on and on and on. Unfortunately, you cannot get this from a Google search, and you cannot get this from LegalZoom.

Traditionally, businesses always had their own attorney, but lawyers have become too expensive and business owners too often believe they can do it themselves with Google and online template-based legal services.

The Sparks Law Difference

Most in-house counsel attorneys would cost a business around $100,000 a year or more with benefits and a parking spot, but at Sparks Law, we offer the same services at about 1.2 percent of that salary per year. Why do we do this? Because we believe that every business, regardless of its size, both requires and deserves quality legal services and counsel at a rate that they can easily afford.

In furtherance of this value, we have created our ‘My In-House Counsel’ subscription plan, to assist business in need of a legal department.