Smita Priyadarshini, Senior Managing Legal Director, Dell EMC
Times have certainly changed. In the legal world, more and more lawyers are increasingly taking the bold step of assuming the role of consultants. Most lawyers gravitate towards the popular options of either working for a firm or a major corporation that have dozens of lawyers, or starting up their own practice. But in recent times, experienced lawyers are beginning to veer from such traditional setups in favor of a more independent consulting approach.
As has been observed, following are some typical matters that a ‘legal consultant’ takes up:
• Due diligence
• Advising clients on legal matters
• Drafting and / or vettinglegal documents
• Developing risk mitigation strategies for clients
Legal consultancies have become rather popular because they offer clients legal consultancy services at much lower costs as compared to the traditional setups. Based upon on-demand model, a client is only billed for the outsourced work, which is definitely a more cost effective and efficient option over that of having a fleet of in-house lawyers on payroll. Also, legal consultancy tends to be more technologically savvy to help streamline certain services, thereby bringing down costs. Completely driven by personal choice, legal consultants usually charge on an hourly basis or retainer fee for their services.
"legal consultancies give lawyers opportunity to exercise their entrepreneurial skills and showcase their talent apart from having a better work-life balance due to flexibility"
It has additionally been observed that in certain cases, consultants bring to table niche expertise in areas or sectors in which in-house lawyers do not possess knowledge or expertise. Legal consultants are often hired to plug in when additional capacity is needed, e.g. for an extensive due diligence investigation or for secondments when a firm's lawyer is on maternity leave or sabbatical.
However, the greatest benefit for clients, apart from the financial savings, is the higher degree of personal engagement that people are less likely to find in a bigger setup. Small to medium sized companies or even large corporates, are vying for attention from law firms, whereas in a consultancy, personal attention is paid to every client. This ensures a faster turn-around time at better quality. Clients get worth of their money.
On the flip side, legal professionals enjoy several distinct advantages that come with consultancy, of which greater flexibility is primary. In addition to choosing the work environment and the work itself, they get more flexible hours. One can work from home, work at flexible time, and schedule tasks at one’s own discretion. A consultant is not bound to work within business hours and can easily play around with workload and time, depending upon commitments and personal needs.
Although debatable whether legal consultants make more money in consultancy, it is undeniable that the consultancy model has the potential to make more money than they could at a legal firm or corporate, where the in-house lawyers are put on a static salary, regardless of workload or performance. Furthermore, almost all businesses require a substantial amount of capital to establish and kick start things, but as the legal consultants are selling their services, start-up capital, in the traditional sense, is a non-issue. Capital assumes the form of solid networking skills and referrals to build business. In this model, consultants can take on any clients or any work they find appealing and/or interesting.
However, there are couple of obvious downsides to this model as well. Stability that comes with a firm or corporate and the steady source of income, both are lost. Consultants often have to enlist the services of other professional(s), at an additional cost, if they need subject matter expertise in a domain which they are not familiar with.
To sum up, legal consultancies give lawyers opportunity to exercise their entrepreneurial skills and showcase their talent apart from having a better work-life balance due to flexibility. They become experts not only in law but other subject matters as well, which hones their overall skills as a professional.