“TRUE” OUTSIDE GENERAL COUNSEL SERVICES
If you’re a company doing $2 million – $25 million without a dedicated General Counsel (or Chief Legal Counsel) or you’re the General Counsel of a company doing that amount of business who doesn’t have a large staff (i.e., a “working” General Counsel), my outside general counsel services are built exactly for you. I provide outside general counsel services to most industries including:
Online and Offline Retail
Typical Outside General Counsel Services
There are a few law firms who market their services as outside general counsel services. All the ones I’ve seen are just law firms. By “just law firms,” I don’t mean to question their value. But, their value proposition to the business owners is the same as any law firm. You hire them to do your work. They turn out work product and send you a bill. That’s what a law firm does.
I was General Counsel of a public company with a couple thousand employees spread across six continents. In 2010, we spent over $15 million on outside legal services. We had a lot of excellent attorneys working for us, although few of them had strong practical business backgrounds. Most lawyers have only ever been lawyers. My job was to filter and apply the information and advice provided to make good business decisions. I have 10 years of business experience outside law. I am equipped to make those decisions – to apply legal information and advice at the cross section of business and law. I have a head for numbers and calculating risk and often describe myself as a business person trapped in a lawyer’s body.
I marvel at how most General Counsels successfully steer their legal departments. They are trained to be lawyers. I suppose over time the good ones develop a great feel for their business and they cull through their outside counsel to find the ones that are practical and sharp. Still, I think there are lots of General Counsels that struggle to manage this process and end up being run by their outside law firms, which is a mistake. Legal knowledge and advice is helpful, but the key is applying that advice to the business matters at hand. It’s also key to know when you need to spend more money on legal services and when you can spend less. It must be even tougher for a business owner without a General Counsel (Chief Legal Officer).
Outside counsel attorneys are naturally inclined to be more risk averse than their clients (after all, they aren’t taking on your business risk). Also, although lawyers are fiduciaries to their clients and tasked with doing what is in the best interests of their clients, it’s challenging to ever entirely separate a person from their manner of making money in the world. Add to that the fact that niche experts are predisposed to believe that what they do in the world is a higher priority than what other people do and you have a recipe for professionals – lawyers, accountants, investment bankers and others – to pitch their services as critical. For example, a contract attorney will give you all the reasons why you should spend more money creating custom contracts and negotiating contracts upfront. A contract attorney values contracts and gets paid to draft them. While contracts are important, is spending more time creating your own custom contracts the right use of your finite legal budget? Perhaps. The contract attorney certainly thinks so, but the contract attorney is not incented to help you properly answer that question. And, they lack perspective to do it.
The Difference with My Outside General Counsel Services
Determining what to do and how to spend your budgeted dollars is critical because there is always way more to do than time or money to do it. Most legal services you can purchase today fall on a continuum of could do-should do-must with very little in the “must do” category. How do you decide what to do, what to prioritize? Enter my TRUE outside general counsel services. You outsource management of your legal function to me. I don’t do your work. I see that it gets done. I oversee it. I ensure you spend your legal budget well. With a structured, quantitative analysis of your business, industry and legal function and my 20 years of experience (10 in business roles), we will methodically manage your risk and keep your legal spend in line. Sometimes we use LegalZoom. Sometimes we use Skadden Arps. These are very different tools – off-the-shelf DIY legal solutions and very high end, bespoke lawyers. Knowing when you can save a dollar and when you need to spend an extra one is key. My goal is to save you money even when you include my fees. I do that by managing well – what we do and who (what firms) we get to do your work.
“What gets measured, gets managed.”
If you’re a business owner without a General Counsel, have you ever thought, “I really should have had a lawyer review this before I signed…”? It happens to the best owners and executives, but it doesn’t need to happen any longer. Or, have you recently thought, “Should I hire a General Counsel?” The outside general counsel services I offer help business owners just like you avoid taking on the costly overhead of a full-time Chief Legal Counsel any sooner than they must. It can often be costly and impractical for small companies to sustain in house counsel, even if their reach of business includes broad legal concerns and issues. Even large companies that employ in-house counsel often find themselves stretched a little too thin.
Having an engaged outside general counsel ensures you have legal counsel that understands your business and takes ownership of the legal issues you face. I’ve personally founded six companies (other than my law practice), so I think like a business person and my legal advice is practical and reflects the time and cost challenges facing most companies in today’s increasingly competitive global economy. As outside general counsel, I will proactively identify legal risks and opportunities for controlling and even lowering your legal department spending.
I will oversee and place your work, including:
Contract negotiation and drafting, including leases, licensing agreements, M&A, credit facilities, employment agreements – you name it, we can get it done
Developing corporate policies and related training
Counseling officers and directors on fiduciary duties
Litigation, arbitration and mediations
Boards of Directors and shareholder meetings – preparation and participation
Negotiating fee agreements with your other outside counsel firms
General legal advice and strategy
I work remotely for some clients (all over the U.S.) and go to the offices of others regularly. My primary office is in Austin, although I also have an office in Houston.
Get in touch with me to talk about your needs and how I can help control your legal risk and spending to free you up to grow your business.