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When to Hire Outside Counsel - Or Not

By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 30, 2019 | Last updated on May 14, 2019

Corporations often see outside counsel as a necessary evil.

It's not that law firms are evil per se; they just bill that way. As a rule of thumb, in-house counsel should hire outside counsel only when they can't do the work themselves. Once the decision has been made to stay in-house, it's about finding the right person for the job.

And sometimes, that person is a robot.

Right Person

It starts with hiring. General counsel need lawyers with varying backgrounds , including those with expertise in:

  • compliance
  • governance
  • risk management
  • labor and employment
  • executive compensation
  • litigation and arbitration

In the legal department foodchain, attorneys are typically at the top. But they can eat a lot of hours, and leave a skinny budget behind. General counsel should use non-lawyer professionals to run a more cost-effective operation. "Changing protocols can be tricky, but if you currently have a system that makes attorneys perform routine and administrative tasks, you might be wasting time and in turn, money," wrote FindLaw's Aditi Mukherji, JD. "Streamline processes like contracts by giving more responsibility to non-attorney professionals."

Right Robot

This is where the robots come in, and we're not talking about junior attorneys. Sometimes, one smart program can do more than an high-rise floor of lawyers. Contracts, discovery, document review, court filings -- artificial intelligence can do it all. According to researchers -- aided by computers, of course -- 23 percent of a lawyer's tasks can be automated with technology. That was two years ago. Now, LawGeex says, robots can understand legalese better than experienced lawyers. So if you can't beat them, employ them. While legal tech can be expensive, it is supposed to pay off in the long run. Like when everybody else in the legal department is out to lunch, on vacation or sleeping, AI will still be working.

Of course, there comes a time when in-house counsel and the AI just can't do the job. That's when it's time for general counsel to hire outside counsel. More on that next time.

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