For both lawyers and their business clients, there is a paradigm shift occurring in the provision of general counsel services in-house while being effectively outsourced: fractional general counsel services. For a number of key reasons, there is a disruptive new way to provide high-quality business legal services quickly and easily at a fraction of the cost and with a much smaller number of traditional problems. In-house legal services for small- and medium-sized companies has often suffered from a mismatch between the budgets and needs of small- and medium-sized companies, on the one hand, and the professional aspirations and styles of the attorneys serving them, on the other.
Starting with the attorneys, it is a well-known fact that only approximately one-third of the lawyers who initially graduate law school will remain in the legal profession throughout their careers. There’s a lot of burn-out and turnover, as lawyers discover that in the words of the old adage, “The law is a harsh mistress.” It is simply not sustainable to treat attorneys as robotic billable-hour producers. The billable hour pressures have been so intense and growing that any semblance of a life outside the traditional law office has been frowned upon.
In that way, the COVID-19 pandemic was freeing for attorneys, allowing them to unchain themselves from their desk and forcing them out of the office, whether their law firm liked or not, and whether they were used to the good, the bad, and the ugly of law firm life or not.
They also appreciated the – believe it or not – more personal touch of one-to-one phone calls or video conferences. Because the hierarchy of various levels of partners, of-counsel, and associates at traditional law firms often created multiple layers of separation between the attorneys and the clients. Once the law firm setting turned into the video conference setting, that kind of separation disappeared because everyone was visible and audible in the little Zoom video conferencing boxes – the great equalizer.
On the client side, the remote lawyering has allowed small- to mid-size businesses the ability to harness online and remotely — for the first time — top quality business attorneys who work in a dedicated way for a fraction of the regular fee of traditional law firms or full-time in-house lawyers. The disruptive new model of the fractional general counsel services or outsourced general counsel services has effectively been the “red pill” of business law, allowing both lawyers and clients to work together in the fractional general counsel services model in a synergistic way that works for both. And unlike traditional legal outsourcing, outsourced general counsel services allow the lawyers to pass on the savings in overhead to their clients while themselves retaining a decent level of legal fees, unlike the overworked and underpaid outsourced lawyers generally receive. This in-house fractional general counsel model is causing more and more lawyers to serve more and more clients in this dedicated capacity, as more and more lawyers and clients take this disruptive legal services red pill.