Tips for Working with Interim Legal Counsel

Many legal departments face tighter budgets, limited headcount, and a need for increased efficiency in a challenging economic climate. When done correctly, support from interim counsel to backfill leaves and absorb overflow can help legal departments get the right amount of support and optimize efficiency.

When to Contract and When not to Contract

At FLEX, we pride ourselves on our years of experience helping companies understand when to hire a FLEX lawyer and when to wait. A few of the most important factors include: 1) type of work, 2) volume of work, and 3) short-term goals.

  1. Hiring a FLEX attorney or an interim counsel, in general, is ideal for day-to-day commercial agreements. This can range from outbound customer agreements to inbound vendor agreements. Interim counsel can also support other functions typically kept in-house, including product counseling, IP management, employment, and routine corporate matters. If the type of work is more complex, such as taking a company through an IPO, handling a major acquisition, or litigating high-profile disputes, we advise companies to leverage outside counsel with the infrastructure and expertise to handle such matters.
  2. Additionally, it is important to assess the amount of coverage you need prior to committing to an interim counsel. If you are not sure, give a conservative estimate. It is often easier to scale up if demand increases than it is to scale down. If the type of work ebbs and flows (e.g., outbound agreements at quarter-end), go with a provider that offers more customization. FLEX’s quarterly model was designed for this very situation. Our quarterly model offers a bucket of hours at predictable rates to be used over a 13-week period, allowing for week-to-week fluctuations in need.
  3. Finally, be as clear as possible on your short-term goals. Whether you are backfilling a recent resignation, covering for parental leave, or anticipating this role could be your next full-time hire, be clear with your provider and the attorney. This will help your provider identify candidates whose availability and goals align with yours.

Avoid Pitfalls

  • Be flexible. Finding the exact lawyer with the exact practice area experience in the exact technology subcategory can be difficult, especially when faced with surges in emerging areas (e.g., AI today, product counsel in 2018, privacy in 2016, bitcoin in 2013). FLEX had more success placing IP law firm litigators as product counsel at a hypergrowth social media company than any other type of lawyer, including attorneys with significant in-house experience. Many of those litigators, who demonstrated legal smarts, keen issue spotting, drive, and solid training, went on to work as permanent employees of the company or competing companies. FLEX helped identify attorneys who matched the department’s core values.
  • Vet wisely. Meet with your candidates face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) and have the same initial set of questions to use for all candidates. This will help you evenly compare experience, communication, and advising style.
  • Communicate consistently. Data dumping at the start of an engagement with a new interim counsel can be a helpful way to get them up to speed on internal tools, the who’s who, and even risk tolerance, but long-term communication habits are key to a productive engagement. As much as we advise our lawyers to be responsive and set expectations, we ask our clients to provide accurate direction, clear expectations, and constructive feedback on an ongoing basis. In practice, this looks like weekly check-ins, regular status reports, and access to internal collaboration tools like your CRM or preferred messaging platform, if using those tools is part of the daily job.

Give and Get

A little feedback goes a long way. Direct feedback can be difficult to give and difficult to receive, but when communicated well, it is one of the best ways to increase efficiency and get the most out of the engagement. Our FLEX lawyers are encouraged to ask for feedback and welcome transparency. FLEX managers also seek client feedback to ensure we meet the company’s needs.

Hiring interim counsel can increase productivity and optimize efficiency. Reach out for more information on hiring a FLEX lawyer for your next interim need.

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