Flying solo: Experts say the sole legal counsel market is expanding

Why the number of sole legal counsel is increasing, and what they want.

The sole legal counsel role is the latest growth area experts are discussing as the legal industry remains in a state of flux.

Mahlab’s latest roundtable report identifies the increasing regulatory environment as the main cause for the increasing number of companies choosing to employ a sole legal counsel.

“With the increased regulatory environment and companies now wanting to bring a lot of their legal work in-house, we have seen an increase in the number of sole legal counsel being recruited,” Mahlab NSW managing director Lisa Gazis told Australasian Lawyer.

“Companies are wanting lawyers who have an intimate knowledge of the business and who can provide on tap legal advice and, help the business navigate the regulatory environment.”

According to the report, limited resources and wearing too many hats are challenges faced by sole legal counsel. “Managing expectations is another challenge.” And, sole legal counsel face unique challenges too. “All sole legal counsel said that their role was very hands on and broad in scope, unlike larger legal teams where lawyers generally specialise in a particular type of work,” Gazis said.

The sole nature of the role can lead to isolation from their peers and as a result, sole legal counsel are often looking for ways to increase the interaction they have with other lawyers. Networking and maintaining good relationships with external legal providers are common tactics used by sole legal counsel, the roundtable found.

Interestingly, many sole legal counsel prefer to work with boutiques rather than larger legal service providers and generally prefer firms that offer flexible billing options and capped rates. 

“For those firms working with sole legal counsel, it’s important to have a good close working relationship, know their business, understand what their needs are from a legal perspective, as well as provide support, information and other value adds,” said Gazis.

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