At an event recently, someone said, “I hope I’ll never need it, but I’ll take your card.” While I never take these comments personally, it’s always a little disheartening to hear that many intelligent, thoughtful business leaders still have an antiquated view of the real value of engaging legal counsel.
Typically, business leaders think of calling their attorney when the business needs to react to something, usually something big such as writing up a contract at the end of a negotiation or counseling on a high risk issue that’s come up. I agree, those are definitely areas where you need a lawyer’s assistance. But if you’re only using a lawyer when you think you need one, you’re not getting counsel to protect and grow your business for the long term.
When Should You Use Legal Counsel?
For any given project timeline, business leaders typically plot legal counsel toward the end. However, there’s a much greater benefit to including your attorney in the earliest stages of project planning — they are able to see opportunities for growth you weren’t aware of, assess the level of risk for decisions, and provide guidance on how to mitigate that risk. Your counsel isn’t at the table to tell you ‘no’ — they’re there to tell you how to safely (and profitably) get to yes. However, your attorney can’t provide that kind of proactive guidance if they’re not in the room and not regularly in business planning conversations.
For example, instead of just reviewing your contracts for risks and accuracy after most negotiations have taken place, a general counsel who understands your business’ big picture plans and risk tolerance can help you consider the acceptable risks of a business relationship and build appropriate protections into the deal itself that will limit your exposure long term, saving you money and minimizing risk, while building a strong business partnership.
Is Proactive Legal Advice More Expensive?
There are a few reasons attorneys aren’t included in earlier stages of business planning — one of the biggest is cost. Every time you call your lawyer, it’s another big invoice – it’s logical that you would call only when necessary. It’s true, legal counsel by the minute adds up quickly. But if your money is constantly spent reacting, you’re not investing in the infrastructure for your business that helps you avoid having to react. As with many aspects of growing a business, you know the long term cost of reacting is higher; but it’s hard to spend the money on the front end investment, not knowing if you’ll see the return.
This is why we’ve structured our General Counsel services differently. We know there’s value to investing in your business so you have peace of mind when a problem arises. For a flat monthly fee, you receive our team’s business expertise to help you prioritize the systems you need to shore up – from governance to contracts management to employment – and get the right tools in place so you are protected when an issue arises. With unlimited phone and email communications, projects, and meetings, your team can call when they need guidance. Why? As business-minded attorneys, we are better advisors when we have a holistic view of business goals and issues and that only happens if our clients call.
Businesses feel they need an attorney to react to something in the business, and they call when there’s a reason to call. But only calling a lawyer when there’s a mess to clean up, doesn’t help prevent future issues and doesn’t help the business grow. Plus, it’s an expensive way to do business. An attorney’s true value is only realized when the business utilizes them to help make informed decisions around both opportunity and risk.
Fortunately, Equinox provides services that can fit any size business. Learn more about how our General Counsel services can protect and grow your business here.