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FEATURE


LEGAL SERVICES


Should you handle legal issues in-house?


Getting legal advice when you start out on your journey as a business owner is essential for learning how to protect your business, getting things right and avoiding costly legal issues. But, while understanding that legal support is a useful tool, SMEs often only employ a lawyer when they feel it is absolutely necessary. Business Network explores the benefits of in-house legal services.


WHAT ARE THE RISKS – AND THE OPTIONS? There are many reasons why an SME might not consider retaining the ongoing services of a lawyer, with cost being a deciding factor, and they may attempt ‘DIY’ methods of solving their legal issues before seeking out expert advice. However, this comes with considerable risk; you are not protecting your business against hidden threats – and, if any should arise, to delay seeking help could be more costly in the long run than engaging assistance from the moment it is needed. Employing an in-house lawyer will bring many business


and cost benefits, and many larger businesses will have already realised the advantages. But while SMEs may not be big enough, or have the finances, to justify retaining full- time legal service, there are still options available to them. For example, it is possible to come to an arrangement with a law firm for as many days are needed. But what benefits will it bring?


AVOID THREATS Your retained lawyer will work with you to identify and manage - or avoid - any hidden threat to your business that might cause significant disruption or delay your plans for the future. There are many legal considerations that you might not have considered before or factored into your business plan; risks can include renegotiating the terms and conditions of your lease, employment law issues, health and safety, data protection breaches and the Modern Slavery Act. If you overlook or breach any of these issues, you can be faced with serious financial impacts that could have a knock-on effect on your operations – and your reputation.


STAY AHEAD OF THE GAME Your consultant will be able to provide you with legal updates as you need them and conduct training, if necessary, for your staff. They will also be able to check out any issues you’re unsure of – small worries that you might not want to incur the expense of instructing external solicitors on.


KNOWING YOUR BUSINESS A consultant will know you and your business well, and so will be able to respond quickly and appropriately to your legal needs. As an expert in the field, your consultant will take on a central role in the business, learning the ins and outs of your operation. You will build up a solid relationship so you know you can rely on a personal service and remain certain of the quality of advice.


COST CONTROL While retaining a consultant lawyer might not entirely eliminate the need for outside legal advice, having your legal work carried out in-house comes with obvious and significant cost savings. If you do ever need to retain the services of an outside law firm, your in-house consultant can


74 business network April 2020


still be of assistance. They can source and even manage the services of an appropriate expert lawyer, ensuring that you get the advice you actually need. An added benefit includes having your adviser negotiating the best fee and terms on your behalf.


Despite the cost issues, the results do potentially speak for themselves. The more your work with an in-house lawyer, the better protected your business could be. In the long run legal pitfalls can be avoided, risks can be mitigated, money can be saved and future plans can be fulfilled.


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