Tips For Attorneys Looking to Become Outside In-House Counsel

In my previous posts, I’ve discussed why lawyers are choosing the outside in-house counsel model, and what they can offer to clients. In this final installment, I’ll be offering tips and advice from those who have already started with this new way of practice.

The outside in-house counsel model is new and exciting, but the fact that it is forging a new path in the traditionally staid legal field means that it might not be best suited for early career firm attorneys or those without previous in-house experience. Katharina Martinka of the Law Offices of Katharina Martinka has been a practicing for twenty-four years and has operated as outside GC for twelve of those. Katharina shifted her practice because she sought more variety, less dependency on any one individual client, and ultimately, more freedom. For those looking to make the leap, she would offer the advice: “Give yourself three years to build a practice in any given geographic location, and read the book, Book Yourself Solid, by Michael Port.”

Juliet Peters of Framework Legal, PLLC warns that the sales cycle can be a long one for outside in-house counsel dealing directly with the leadership team of a prospective client.  “Trust and business may come slowly. On the other hand, be prepared to jump right in if dealing with inside counsel. You won’t have much time to prove yourself,” she said.

Bernard Williams of Company Counsel, LLC notes that often clients aren’t able to see the potential for legal issues before they arise. For those looking to set up their own practice, he would recommend finding like-minded attorneys who offer a wide range of experience across different areas of practice to help clients with problems that can arise across the scope of their business dealings. Having that experience on your team prevents your clients having to look to large traditional firms to tackle matters outside your collective expertise.

Allen Rodriguez of ONE400 implores, “Don’t hesitate. We live in a collaborative consumption economy. Everyone is accustomed to paying subscription fees for most of our services. A lower monthly cost distributed across many customers is a win-win for law firms and consumers alike. However, when creating your benefits package, be sure to consider what value you need to add to your plan to keep high retention. For instance, not everyone will need legal advice on a regular basis, but they may need a secure place to store important documents online in perpetuity. Be sure to consider including software into your benefits mix.”

Garrett Purdue of Perdue Law, PLLC echoes the importance of technology in finding a competitive edge:  “All service offerings are evolving and most legal services are not immune. Moreover, we are typically able to use technology and project staffing to deliver high-quality work at a higher margin and lower total cost. We regularly beat our old traditional law firms on new assignments and inevitably hear that our having abandoned hourly billing was a significant consideration. Law firms tied to unwieldy billing structures and bloated staffing models are dead firms walking.”

For those thinking about entering the world of outside in-house counsel, those are quite a few considerations, and for the cautious plenty of reasons to stay within the traditional model of law. Innovation and shifting models are difficult, but perhaps most pressing is the change that we see on the legal consumer side, as clients continue to drive the tremendous growth of alternative firms that can offer a more appealing package of services and fees. This alone is reason enough to consider adopting new legal models, but these alternatives offer a better and more collaborative relationship that benefits both businesses and attorneys alike.