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  • Katharina Martinka

General Counsel: Does Your Company Have A Contingency Plan?

Is your company prepared for the absence of your General Counsel? Do you have a plan B in place for his/her leave or termination? Consider outsourced GC support...


In-house General Counsel (GC) has become increasingly common with small- to medium-sized businesses that were previously outsourcing their legal needs. It streamlines workflow throughout the company and offers easily accessible legal advice and services.


So, what happens when you no longer have your in-house General Counsel available? Whether he or she takes a temporary leave for medical or maternity reasons, resigns, or is terminated, you are left with a major hole in one of your business’s key oversight roles.


It is important as the CEO or CFO of a company to avoid leaving this position empty for long (or at all, if possible). Have a contingency plan in place to ensure your company is not negatively impacted, should you be without your GC.


If you are only anticipating a temporary leave or have lost your GC on short notice, then you may want to consider employing the services of an outsourced interim (or project-specific) General Counsel to keep your day-to-day operations running smoothly.


How General Counsel Impacts Your Business

Why Are General Counsel Essential?


The General Counsel is genuinely one of the roles that drives companies. You may not realize just how much work is done by your GC until you find yourself in a situation without him or her.

If you have not had time to prepare for his or her absence (or planned for the possibility), you may find yourself with a lot of unchecked boxes and any remaining legal team members lacking the guidance they had grown accustomed to. Board members and executives may now be without a trusted advisor, as well.


Many different areas can fall under the scope of a General Counsel role; however, some of the common duties and responsibilities that she performs are:


● Overseeing and Managing threatened and ongoing disputes and litigation

● Acting as a point of contact for external agencies, third parties, negotiations, and interactions with other attorneys and law firms

● Supporting Sales, Marketing and Customer Service in achieving their goals

● Proactively assessing legal concerns and opportunities for the business overall--meaning she is reviewing the actions of various departments and how they may impact your sales, productivity, other stakeholders, etc.

● Creating, implementing and advocating company policies, procedures, and processes

● Ensuring that all areas of the business are in compliance with applicable rules and regulations

● Managing the Company’s IP portfolio

● Managing and guiding in-house legal staff members and assisting the Board of Directors


Of course, there are different requirements of General Counsel based on the unique needs of each business, but these are some common ones that most businesses rely on their GC to maintain.


When and How Should You Engage Interim General Counsel?


If your company does not have multiple attorneys with a wide breadth of subject matter expertise, and/or an assistant General Counsel, it’s likely that you’re not prepared for an unplanned vacancy in the office of the General Counsel. The best time to identify back-up resources is in advance of a crisis. Consider it to be invaluable insurance in case an unexpected event occurs, such as an accident, illness or performance issue. Interim and project General Counsel are also helpful when an increased workload arises for the GC, due to a business opportunity, such as a merger or acquisition.


To fill the gap that is left in the absence of your GC or her need to replicate herself quickly, you will want to engage the services of a highly qualified, experienced and diversified attorney who can provide your business with the interim legal services you need. Outsourcing is a great option to fit those needs.


Your GC and/or the C level person he/she reports to can engage an outsourced General Counsel and meet on a periodic basic (e.g. monthly or quarterly) to discuss current objectives and challenges, the location of information, resources, backups, contacts and preferred approaches to legal matters, should a need arise to backfill or augment the GC’s role. This will reduce the ramp up time for a new resource, the amount of ‘balls being dropped’ and obviate the need for further “crisis management”, when a need does arise.


In Summary


Regardless of why you may find yourself with an empty or understaffed General Counsel position, it is important to have a plan B. You must have the necessary support in place for your business and legal teams to allow them to protect your business’s interests and maintain the level of care and service provided by the previous acting General Counsel.


Your business’s infrastructure depends on the services of a skilled in-house legal team and the loss of a counsel’s management and guidance can hinder your sales, marketing and legal teams’ abilities to achieve their goals and manage the workload. Plan ahead and make sure you have alternate resources available, should the need arise.


I can help ensure your company is protected by providing the interim and project General Counsel you need! Contact me to book a consultation today!

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