Most small businesses do not have a full-time general counsel serving to provide legal support for their operations. However, having legal support available to shape transactions and business policies is critical to avoiding business and legal issues that require significant resources to solve after they develop. So, having general counsel services available is a cost saver, and is expedient for a successful business.
I'm often asked about specific General Counsel duties, though usually, it is not exactly in those words; generally, it is something like, "We need a lawyer for our business." Serving as general counsel for a business is 'being a lawyer for that business'. An overview of the jobs performed by General Counsel in paid staff positions is described below and provides answers to what this means to me, and for my clients.
General Counsel Job Duties Basic Working Definition
General Counsel is typically an experienced senior attorney in large firms' legal departments, on staff in most cases and paid a salary. Their job is to be the company's lawyer, and often they work with other lawyers and professionals to advance the company's business. Such positions require extensive professional and management experience to supervise other attorneys and non-legal support staff employed in the legal department. Most corporate General Counsel report directly to the CEO at regular intervals. A General Counsel's main duty is to ensure the client employer's full legal compliance with pertinent business objectives at all times. A major secondary role is serving as a quasi-business partner by advising company heads about various strategic plans and objectives from legal perspectives. Both functions entail ongoing research to stay abreast of most recent economic trends and regulations or new legislation that directly impact business operations.
General Counsels must be leaders and business managers; General Counsels need managerial expertise along with strong legal acumen to lead work processes and supervise personnel effectively. They are intimately familiar with internal business affairs and often interact with all staff members.
While I understand that your company cannot or may not choose to hire a staff attorney to serve as General Counsel, I offer these services to client businesses as 'outside' General Counsel, as an integral part of your business team. In doing so, I have fee structures for either an established scope of services for a set monthly fee or simply charge an hourly fee for work we are requested to perform in delivering services similar to those outlined above. In doing so, I strive to be your business legal advisor with first loyalty to your business's interests to provide you with:
1. Extensive legal experience to provide accurate advice and wise counsel;
2. Good business sense gained from our experience with various commercial transactions and competitive economic market dynamics;
3. Leadership and managerial skills applicable to business economics and organizational cultures.
4. Teamwork with your entire group.
5. Intimate knowledge and understanding of your business industry, and your business model, with a focus on assisting you in making your work better and successful.