A Salute to In-House Counsel (or, What Our Director Learned In-House)


The inception of llgold didn’t just happen in a vacuum. It was only after I jumped the fence from private practice to in-house that I realised that there was a better way for external lawyers to deliver service to businesses. The way we practice at llgold is founded upon these learnings. This means that we are well placed to work with in-house counsel, because, well – we get it. You want us to be responsive, commercial and excellent value for your legal spend. And we are.

We know what it means to be in-house. The demands, the expectations, the quirks and the fun stuff.

So, how did we get here?

From my first day as a shiny new lawyer, in a three-piece suit, rosy-cheeked and full of promise, I worked on my commerciality, plain language skills and building rapport with clients. I learned from the best partners in the insolvency and restructuring world. I was making my clients happy. I knew what they wanted. Right?

Wrong.

Two years as a Corporate Legal Counsel in a fast-growing, high-performing finance business was nothing short of a revelation – in-house lawyers have a tough job.

Here’s what I learned:

Clients do not want to hear ‘no’.

They don’t want roadblocks. They want a path through. Check out this article about the Staples Australia and New Zealand Legal Team – ‘The Department of Yes’ – here.

Businesses want us to be creative. The only way to do this is to really understand what the business is trying to achieve. If we focus on the question only, we will never really give holistic advice. This is all about context, strategy and thinking broadly.

Gauging the risk relating to the issue at hand is crucial before even attempting to land at an answer.

Look, us lawyers don’t love risk. But businesses can at times, be ok with it. Our role as advisors is to explain our thoughts and give our client the tools to assess the risks it is prepared to take. In-house counsel are expert at giving a full picture on risks, rewards and possible outcomes so that their business can make an informed decision.

You’ll get it wrong if you don’t understand the business and its strategy.

When a client asks for legal advice, they do so from the point of view of their business and its strategy. This means giving a legal opinion on how the law works just isn’t enough. Clients need legal advice with context, and this cannot be achieved without an intimate understanding of the business.

There’s no love in a business for long, detailed letters of advice.

Our clients expect that we have done the research and undertaken detailed consideration of the matter at hand. But guess what? They don’t want to read about Lord Denning’s judgment in 1953 (as fascinating as us law nerds think it might be).

In-house lawyers give considered advice, with options and a risk assessment. They know to keep it straightforward and only as detailed as necessary to get the point across.

Savvy lawyers can become trusted advisors in a business for matters that reach far outside of legal issues.

Unlike lawyers in private practice, in-house lawyers that gain the trust of the business will eventually become a drop-in centre for any and all queries. This is a good thing. This means that you have demonstrated to your business that you understand how and why the business makes money, the ethos of the business and its future strategy.

So – what’s the real lesson? In-house counsel have a lot on their plates and private practice lawyers can learn a lot from their experiences.

In-house lawyers, because we have been there, llgold is an excellent overflow solution for when you just can’t get back to everyone in the business in the time frames they demand. We know what it is like to be in-house, we understand the style of responses you are expected to give your business and that you don’t have room in your budget for excessive billing.

Give us a call to discuss how we can help in those moments when the inbox is overflowing.