So you’re a start up, an SME or an established international conglomerate supplying the worlds finest caviar to the queen’s second cousin twice removed. No matter which category your company falls into, you have no doubt been in a situation where you have had to either:
i. find a lawyer (commonly by means of searching ‘top 10 law firms in London’ on Alta Visa), only to realise that the hourly rate charged is more than Prince Timmy would pay for that caviar; or
ii. search a freelance website hoping that the two page shareholder’s agreement you paid £10 for will protect you in the eventual hostile takeover you’re trying to prevent in your artisanal light bulb design business.
If things get really desperate, you may even hire a full time in-house counsel… or two… or three. Anything to not have to read yet another NDA.
The reality is, at some point you have to pay someone to read and write all those nauseatingly boring terms and conditions and write up those increasingly dull cookie policies, website terms or privacy policies.
Now I don’t mean to diminish the importance of having proper legal support in your business – because that’s my bread and butter. But what I am saying is that there is a better way to get that support.
There’s no need to highlight the horrors of receiving a bill from a law firm where the billable hours have racked up over a few days of email exchanges and phone calls where all you wanted was a simple sale agreement. Everyone knows it’s an expensive endeavour.
But what a lot of companies don’t know, or simply just don’t consider, is that having a dedicated team of in-house lawyers as employees is not really any cheaper. There is a new and significantly more practical development in legal offerings and that’s in the form of a legal consultancy*.
On average a three to five year PQE in-house lawyer (in London) will be earning anywhere in the region of £60,000 to £90,000 per annum. In many cases, companies will have two or maybe three of these individuals employed. Taking the lower estimate, that’s a whopping £180,000 a year – not even taking into account the amount of money spent on external counsel for matters the in-house counsel needs assistance on (which, unfortunately, is a reality). You could probably safely round that figure up to the £200,000 mark.
The difference a legal consultancy makes is that it offers the exact same services as an employed in-house legal counsel, charged at an hourly rate significantly less than a traditional law firm (try £80/£100 compared to £300+). And you only pay for the hours worked, unlike employees who you are certainly paying even though they are applying for other more interesting positions during work hours.
Now when matters get large scale and complex and there is an international merger of your franchised kitten masseuse-ery (sp?) and some other (equally strange) person’s puppy pedicure chain, you may still need to pick up the phone and contact one of those firms you Alta Vista’d to help out.
But there is also a chance you won’t have to do that.
Legal consultancies are a result, usually, of networking. Lawyers are in contact with lawyers who are in contact with lawyers who have cats that like getting massages and pedicures as much as the next guy/feline. This usually means that your appointed legal consultant is in contact, on a frequent basis, with another lawyer who may have the expertise the consultant is lacking, and will be able to source such expertise at a reduced rate (compared to Mr-Suit-and-Tie-Silver-Circle-Slaughter-and-May-Oxford-Grad-Lawyer-Man).
So, if I haven’t been clear, find a legal consultancy and save significant costs by outsourcing your in-house legal function.
That is all.