Corporate legal departments often search for ways to reduce costs and optimize performance. It can be beneficial to maintain a large department of in-house lawyers. This practice ensures adequate staffing as well as retention of subject matter specialists. However, it can be costly to keep extra employees on the payroll when the workload moderates. On the other hand, hiring outside law firms to provide specialized legal advice or assist when the workload gets heavy can also be expensive. Hence, the interim counsel.
One cost-effective and flexible solution that has emerged is the concept of hiring interim counsel. Also known as the “on-demand counsel model”, it is gaining traction for talent management. It is an alternative to hiring full-time in-house lawyers or getting help from an outside law firm.
Advantages of Interim Counsel
Cadence Counsel isa boutique search firm that helps place individuals into in-house counsel roles. The company notes that the average candidate interested in temporary legal work is highly qualified. The typical candidate graduated from a Top 20 law school and has worked at a large law firm. The candidate also has spent time in-house in the legal department of a Fortune 500 company.
Cost control is the primary advantage of interim hiring. Hiring legal talent for variable engagements can help with overall cost containment. General counsels are under significant pressure to contain costs. But they must balance cost containment with fluctuating workflows. It is often cheaper to hire a lawyer with in-house legal experience for specific projects than it would be to carry the financial burden of permanent lawyers when activity levels are low.
Less Expensive Interim Does Not Mean Inferior
Contrary to some conceptions, cheaper service does not necessarily equate to lower quality service. Some may assume that a truly talented lawyer would be able to secure a permanent position. However, many lawyers in the interim placement market like the role’s flexibility in contrast to the rigidity of a permanent role. Thus, is a high-quality pool of interim legal talent is available at lower rates than external counsel would require.
The on-demand legal talent model provides an added degree of flexibility for companies and temporary lawyers alike. This is especially useful for companies adapting to changing market conditions. The on-demand model makes it easy to seamlessly ramp up and then ramp down staff. It is more challenging for a company to ramp down when permanent employees are involved. For lawyers working in interim placements, this model provides flexibility to balance family responsibilities or pursuits outside of the legal profession.
Because there is a large network of lawyers, a company can match with a lawyer quickly. This is valuable for companies who seek lawyers with right skillset and risk profile in a timely manner. It also facilitates customization, which is useful if specialized legal knowledge is needed. For example, if a unique IP issue arises, a specialized lawyer can be retained for 3-18 months until the issue is resolved.
Major Players in the Interim Counsel Market
Paragon Legal is one of the major players in this market. Founded in 2006 by Mae O’Malley, Paragon’s goal is to provide lawyers with the ability to obtain meaningful and challenging legal work while maintaining personal flexibility. Paragon has matched lawyers with interim placements at companies such as Airbnb, Apple, and Facebook.
Trista Engel, who is the CEO of Paragon Legal, says, “Something that’s really important and unique about Paragon is that it began as a way to create opportunities for attorneys who are looking for a non-traditional way to practice law, where they can do challenging work that they’re really good at while also having flexibility and balance in their lives. And it holds for clients as well—we’re helping support their workflow so they, too, can have balance in their lives. For both sides, we help you find a way of working that works for you.”
Selective Hiring Process
The hiring process for interim counsel at Paragon is extremely selective. Only 5% of applicants receive an offer to join the Paragon network. From there, Paragon works to ensure their corporate clients are matched with lawyers who are the best fit for the company’s culture and project specifications.
One client of paragon said, “With Paragon, I can leverage the talent of a former general counsel who can step into a subject matter like privacy, employment, or transactional support.” “They’ve been key to supporting our business in a way that’s allowed me to be nimble. I can utilize their talent for months, reassess my needs, and not feel pressure to make a rushed hire.”
Axiom is another leading provider of on-demand legal talent to companies. Founded in 2000, Axiom has nearly 20 years of experience pairing lawyers to serve the unique needs of in-house legal departments. Axiom has a network of over 5,800 lawyers around the world. Their lawyers have completed over 8,000 client engagements.
A general counsel that uses Axiom’s services noted, “Axiom lawyers have the same acumen and capability as large law firm lawyers or members of my in-house team, and they sit with us to understand how the business operates.”