You May Need an Outside General Counsel
By Thomas W. Hartmann
The Hartmann Law Firm LLC
[email protected]; 908 769 6888
Small and medium sized business owners face countless financial, management and organizational challenges. One of the most critical is how to hire key business leaders who will run the business, including a CFO, CIO, and General Counsel. Depending upon the nature of the company, each of these positions could be indispensible.
This article will focus on the General Counsel role.
First, do you need a General Counsel? Not many small and medium sized companies think they can afford a full time General Counsel. They may be right. But there is an alternative: find an outside lawyer you trust who has a breadth of experience and who you can use on an as needed basis across the spectrum of issues you encounter.
For example, while an IT integration company might concentrate its business efforts on the next information technology breakthrough, the General Counsel should focus well beyond that on areas of contract review, regulatory compliance, Human Resources issues, commercial lease negotiation, review of marketing plans, and corporate structure. So look for someone who knows or can learn your business, but also has a business sense. That allows the General Counsel to handle many issues while helping to harmonize them within your business model.
Second, do not limit your outside General Counsel to only “legal” items. When you are considering the type of person who might be able to support you in an “outside” General Counsel role, you will inevitably seek someone you can trust on many levels -- someone who becomes a trusted advisor. So, do not confine the “outside” General Counsel to only what you might consider the “legal issues.” He or she can assist broadly in asking questions, clarifying issues, directing the debate and defining solutions even in areas well outside the realm often reserved for lawyers.
Third, the General Counsel should help business leaders in the preventive maintenance role. Many companies call “the lawyer” when a crisis arises – when the company is sued or when the regulators start knocking at the door. A more efficient and effective plan is to engage an “outside” General Counsel to review plans, policies and procedures now, make adjustments, and move on within the context an effective compliance program. This can happen on many levels, including Human Resources, Marketing, Sales, Contract Management, Regulatory, and Finance.
Finally, no lawyer has the answers on all matters. Use your “outside” General Counsel as a source for identifying the need for specialty lawyers and connecting the company with such specialists. The General Counsel can serve as the guide and go-between for the specialist to insure that such matters are handled cost efficiently to the overall benefit of the company.
The Hartmann Law Firm LLC can assist in these compliance matters to insure your business and your assets are protected. Beyond this, we can help guide businesses through issues ahead of litigation or aggressively advocate in litigation and business disputes should the need arise.