According to Mahlab, the Australian legal search & selection company, an increasing amount of companies are hiring for in-house lawyers suggesting solo legal council could be the law field’s latest growth area, however this unique role does have its challenges.
Released in November this year, the Roundtable Report was compiled based upon talks between 28 in-house lawyers from various companies of differing sizes operating across an array of sectors.
Why Are In-House Lawyer Numbers Climbing?
Lisa Gazib, Mahlab’s New South Wales managing director points to the growing regulatory environment as one of the central reasons why more firms are opening their doors to in-house legal counsel.
'I think it's getting people who have the knowledge of the business who can provide on-tap legal advice and help the business navigate the regulatory environment,' remarked Ms Gazib.
What’s Involved In The Role?
Solo legal counsel have a wide role covering legal, compliance, human resources, regulatory and OH&S legal affairs.
Opportunities to take on a leadership mantle and corporate governance responsibilities can be part of the position.
“The ability to contribute to the direction of the business is a key attraction for lawyers in a sole legal counsel role,” stated the Mahlab report.
It concluded in-house legal counsel enjoy greater job satisfaction as the role offers more autonomy and ownership over their own department (they’re solely responsible for setting up the legal function from naught).
The Unique Challenges Faced By In-House Lawyers
According to the report, solo legal counsel must:
Act as a one-person department
Be equipped with an extensive breadth of expertise and knowledge to effectively to fulfil the varied legal needs of businesses.
Have an ability to work well with access to less resources.
Possess the necessary knowledge and ability to adapt to changing scenarios and business legal demands. For example, tasks which would usually be taken care of by a paralegal must be performed by the in-house lawyer, such as updating websites and submitting regulatory forms.
Be aware the autonomy of their position can sometimes lead to developing feelings of disconnection from both the rest of the company and the law profession as a whole. This feeling of isolation can lead these lawyers increasing their engagement in industry groups and attending more networking events.
"All sole legal counsel said that their role was very hands on and that it was very broad in scope. Unlike larger legal teams where you might have lawyers who specialise in a particular type of work, legal counsel were faced with a challenge when it comes to managing expectations,” Ms Gazib commented.
Possible Solutions To These Challenges
Hire law students.
Offer hands-on, practical legal training.
Delegate non-legal related administrative tasks to other departments.