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What Are Your Goals as In-House Counsel This Year?

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

It's well past New Year's Day -- except in China and other southeast Asian countries -- but it's not too late to make resolutions for 2017.

In fact, if you work in-house for a multi-national or a company aspiring to grow into the international market, this may be the perfect time to make some goals.

With cyber criminals hacking away at internet services around the world, company attorneys must work strategically with technical professionals to avert future disasters. And as automakers choke on legal setbacks from Japan to Germany, their lawyers must be prepared to deal with civil and criminal challenges.

Here are a few areas that will definitely come into play for in-house counsel no matter where you work:

Cost Control

The bottom line for any for-profit business is the bottom line. This certainly affects in-house counsel, including the company decision whether to hire in-house attorneys. The challenge, with budget constraints, is how much lawyering can the business afford.

A tech company may want an intellectual property lawyer to help protect inventions, software, or business methods. Typically, they also want their in-house attorney to deal with compliance, labor and contact matters. In a specialized world, it really makes sense to have more than one person to handle such tasks.

To help with this challenge, in-house counsel may want to try delegating. As a practical matter, company attorneys do not need to do all the lawyering. Paralegals or office assistants can draft documents, complete forms and even appear at administrative hearings.

Outside Counsel

As long as we are not operating in a multiverse, nobody can be in two places at once. In-house counsel should be in the house, and outside counsel should be in the outhouse. In other words, somebody has to do the dirty work.

In managing outside counsel, however, an in-house attorney can clean up matters before and after they get involved. A well-presented case file and memorandum to outside counsel can clarify a company's position, provide direction, and guard against misunderstandings. It should define issues, including discovery land cost limitations.

By staying involved with outside attorneys, in-house counsel can assist with case management and focus on the company's short-term and long-term legal concerns.

Legal services are no longer one-size-fits-all. Whether it's a product of technology or the economy, legal services have been unbundled.

As a consequence, in-house counsel should consider whether an outside law firm is necessary in every case. Maybe the company doesn't need the whole enchilada. Maybe it's time to order a la carte.

The days of one law firm handling an entire case may be coming to an end. Even traditional lawyer tasks evolving into technology. For example, law firms are increasingly outsourcing e-discovery to tech services. In the new e-world of 2017, in-house counsel should do consider doing the same.

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