There are a number of good reasons why the business law needs of small to medium-sized companies are served better by part-time general counsel services.
Fees, Fees, Fees – Legal Fee Price Points Are Key
The first reason is always the main issue with SMEs: price. There is always a balance between quality and price. Do you buy a cheaper product with lower quality points or a more expensive one? In the case of small to medium-sized businesses, there often isn’t a choice. Price points govern decision-making. Cheaper is by definition better if you don’t have the funds to invest.
However, in the case of fractional general counsel services, this is a false dichotomy: Because you are using fractional in-house counsel services, you are actually paying for only a small fraction of a full-time service, which at the small- and mid-size company level, is usually what you really need. So while an experienced professional lawyer would normally charge well over $200,000 for a full-time position (and often indeed much more than that) you can access that level of business law legal services for a tiny fraction of that fee.
Another part of the reason why it’s cheaper to use fractional in-house counsel is that lawyers without major overhead – like gleaming corporate law offices and teams of secretarial, paralegal, and other support staff – can pass on those savings in overhead to their clients. This is one of the biggest reasons why traditional law firms just don’t work that well for small- to medium-sized businesses: Those businesses care much less about the gleaming corporate law office than they do about the legal services. And they’d rather pay less – much less – than pay for all the law firm overhead expenses. Today, when the lawyer’s main tool is the notebook computer, there’s really no reason for large, gleaming law offices – other than the glitz and glamour that tends to impress clients who are impressed by such things.
Dedication to Service Rather Than Billables
What any small to mid-size business is looking for is legal counsel who understands that business’s unique needs and cares enough to guide it to avoid problems. The advantage in that regard of fractional in-house legal counsel is very great because with good fractional in-house legal counsel services, there’s a dedicated attorney who acts as the single general counsel for that company. Knowing a company well – its needs, its politics, its culture, its challenges – helps the fractional in-house attorney perform his or her job in a dedicated, understanding way that is about an ongoing relationship of trust rather than a one-off “pay me by the hour” kind of relationship that often is the stock in trade of traditional law firms. Fractional general counsel services thus add a human and personal touch to managing a company’s legal needs, thus satisfying the need for quality, dedicated in-house counsel legal services while at the same time doing so in a way that makes sense financially for small- to mid-size businesses. Fractional general counsel services are indeed the way of the future.