It’s no secret that the pandemic has pulled law departments in contradictory directions, with rising workloads far outpacing operating budgets.
A 2021 survey reveals, for example, that not only do GCs feel the pressure to contain costs, but they also expect department workloads to increase by as much as 25 percent over the next three years.
At the same time, headcounts are expected to rise by only 3 percent, according to the General Counsel Imperative Survey, conducted by Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession and EY Law.
The survey also reveals that 88 percent of the GCs interviewed plan to reduce their costs across the board over the next three years. Their No. 1 reason? Pressure from the CEO and board.
It’s not surprising, then, that ALSPs are playing an ever-increasing role in helping GCs manage these competing forces: 85 percent of general counsel surveyed said their law departments use ALSPs, a 13 percentage point increase over 2019.
Interim counsel providers like Paragon Legal offer a best-of-both-worlds solution to confront these increasing challenges.
In this environment, a company can bring an experienced attorney onto its team for a far lower cost and with greater oversight than they might get with outside counsel, without the risks and hidden costs of a permanent hire.
Expensive and Stretched Thin
While “do more with less” has become something of a cliche for modern-day law departments, BigLaw bill rates still continue to climb.
At the same time, BigLaw lawyers are stretched between multiple projects. Few go on secondments where a client can have a sole dedicated team member — and law firms are often reluctant to assign a top performer to this type of role.
This means that the advantages of interim counsel go far beyond a lower billing rate — though the rates do represent a transformative discount from those of BigLaw.
Paragon lawyers have significant in-house experience, and in their role as interim counsel, they function as an embedded, dedicated member of a team, as opposed to an outside advisor.
This makes for closer engagement, better outputs, and more intimate knowledge of how the legal team and the company function.
Work progresses more quickly because team members don’t have to waste time interacting with an outside law firm. These flexible counsel are not working under someone else’s direction or on someone else’s timeline — they are part of the company.
There’s also billing transparency.
Interim counsel are visible in a law department’s day-to-day operations, and they’re transparent in their billing and scheduling. The progress they make is self-evident, as they work directly as an embedded team member.
No Budget Leeway
As the Harvard and EY survey also revealed, GCs do not think they will have the budget in the coming years to hire the personnel they need to shoulder their departments’ growing workloads.
Certainly, a law department can address this problem by spreading the extra work among its existing employees, but this creates the danger of the same burn-out that is so prevalent at law firms.
And even if GCs had the budget to hire as many permanent lawyers as they need, it’s difficult to find personnel who can justify such a high level of commitment.
If the budget allows for only a part-time hire, it can be hard to find someone flexible enough to take such a post. Moreover, a given project may require a niche set of skills that don’t translate well to the long-term needs of the department. No one wants to terminate lawyers shortly after expending the time and money to hire them.
Flexible counsel can play a key role in meeting these types of challenges as well.
With Paragon, for example, a GC can request an attorney with experience in the precise areas needed for the project at hand without the risks of hiring the wrong person. If the lawyer isn’t a fit, the commitment is far lower than with a permanent hire.
Costs beyond salary must also be considered. A GC may have to place ads and hire a recruiter. Of course, there are payroll costs, as well as the expense of the benefits and perks that any good workplace offers to its team.
Paragon shoulders this burden for its clients, and all of these costs are baked right into the rate.
For lawyers, working in an interim counsel role provides the opportunity to do top-level legal work without the extreme hourly commitment typical of BigLaw.
Such roles are particularly appealing amid daily headlines about the legal industry’s struggles with burnout and work-life balance problems.
Similarly, this kind of solution can make for happy GCs facing a challenging landscape.
Flexible counsel can maximize productivity and minimize costs, leading to a happy and productive law department overall.
At Paragon, we’re dedicated to positive outcomes for all of our people — both our lawyers and our clients. Learn more about our values, resources, and offerings here.