There are many outsourced fractional general counsel services out there. The idea is to provide a better deal to small- to mid-size businesses by providing them in-house general counsel services that are in fact outsourced or external. That way, a business can get the business lawyer it needs without having to pay the inflated billing rates for exorbitant outside counsel services or without having to hire a full-time GC in-house. With fractional GC services, you can get an experienced business lawyer for a fraction of the price of either of the other solutions.
But as with any other service, not all service providers are equal. The following is a list of the qualities that allow you to tell if you are getting a really stellar outsourced fractional GC, or whether you may be getting less than you bargained for.
Here are the 5 signs that you’re getting great fractional general counsel legal services:
1. The Rain-Maker and the Service Attorney Are the Same Person – So Your Business Lawyer Really Knows Your Business and Its Needs
Most traditional law firms are structured in such a way as to divide responsibilities between a “rain-maker,” a partner who finds and signs on clients, and “service attorneys” who do the actual work. That means that the attorney you’ve been dealing with is usually not the attorney who will be handling your actual work.
That arrangement works well for law firms but can be a problem for clients, because there’s a disconnect between the rain-maker who deals with you and the lawyers who actually do the work for you. So may not be getting work from a lawyer who really understands your business.
So the first way to tell if you’re getting great fractional general counsel services is if you’re dealing with a single lawyer for everything and that lawyer is doing your legal work himself or herself rather than handing it off to faceless others in the law firm. That’s easy to check, because if you get a mark-up of a contract, you’ll see who made the edits. If it’s not clearly the lawyer but someone at the firm, that will be pretty obvious.
2. There Is a Single Lawyer Dedicated to You, Not Multiple Lawyers
This second point is closely related to the first. If there are multiple attorneys working on your matter, key details can get lost in the shuffle. But if it’s the same lawyer always dedicated to you, then you have a better chance of knowing that your needs are going to be consistently recognized and met.
3. The Billing Rates Are Very, Very Low and Affordable
The outsourced fractional GC services model is only worthwhile if the legal fees remain very, very low and affordable. There’s an easy way to know if you are just getting traditional law firm services packaged to look like a good deal when they are not: What do the hourly billing rates work out to be? If you’re paying anything north of $275 per hour, you are getting a regular law firm’s billing rate rather than a bargain. So price points are key. Especially in what is shaping up to be a recession, where either stagflation (inflation plus recession) or deflation (in which money is scarce) is likely to be occurring, it’s important to keep costs of in-house legal counsel as low as possible.
4. The Method of Communication Is Remote and Overhead Is Low
This point is related to the previous one: If you are using modern methods of remote communication such as video conferencing with your attorney, rather than dealing with the attorney in gleaming corporate offices, you’re far more likely to be getting the good deal you expect in terms of fees. As inflation and stagflation or deflation increasingly dominate the economy, this issue of low overhead can help you cut costs.
5. The Attorney Is Experienced
Great price-points doesn’t necessarily mean great business lawyering. To be sure you’re not just getting a cut-rate business lawyer who’s inexperienced, make sure you take a look at the experience and years of practice of that business attorney. Don’t be afraid to ask for a resume/CV. Because to be worth the legal fee, you need quality.
When the above five-factor test has been met, you can be confident that you have signed on great outsourced fractional general counsel services that are truly worthwhile.