When our law firm was first conceived, I struggled to succinctly articulate our service offering.
Unlike other small law firms, we can’t help on family or criminal matters and we still can’t draft a will we’d use ourselves. Calling ourselves ‘NewLaw’ might send the right signals to other lawyers, but clients care less about business models and more about how you might help them.
My elevator pitch revolved around our ‘outsourced in-house counsel’ service and has evolved into a ‘retainer counsel’ service. Here’s what it looks like.
Business law advice
Calling ourselves ‘outsourced in-house counsel’ instantly sends the message that we are all about business law. Like in-house counsel we look into legal issues affecting businesses.
In addition, it also tells clients that we look at all business legal issues. Even if we’re not experts in a particular area of business law, if we think it is of value to the business, we give our gut feel, we read further into the topic, we ask questions, or we recommend another lawyer or law firm with expertise in it.
Familiarity with the business
Like in-house counsel, we become more familiar with the business as we work closer with team members. Our model incentivises both client and lawyer to work more closely together – our retainer is a prepayment for a block of legal services which means clients are less wary of calling on us.
We probably won’t have the same degree of familiarity as full-time in-house counsel but an investment in the relationship by the business and law firm pays off in responsiveness and integration in ways approaching an in-house counsel function.
Commercial advice, faster turnaround
Okay, clients may not always agree that our advice is turned around as quickly as would be ideal.
However, being more familiar with the business and working more closely together over time does mean that we can better read between the lines and more quickly understand agendas and risk tolerances that may be difficult to spell out to another lawyer coming in cold.
Every now and then, we even help remind the business of its original agenda or shape the agenda in ways that make us more useful advisors and our work with the business professionally more satisfying!
Cross-pollinating experience and expertise
Like all lawyers, we’ve built up expertise in certain areas by dint of having “seen it all” (or at least, a lot of it) and in some cases, having been involved in the most complex transactions of that type.
As a result of being ‘outsourced’, we see the same or similar transactions across different clients and industries and can cross-pollinate our experience and expertise.
Fixed monthly retainer
Like employed in-house counsel, our base model is a fixed monthly charge – essentially, a retainer.
This means businesses with regular legal requirements can “bulk-buy” our services at “bulk-buy” rates. It also means that the business is less wary of engaging us if they’ve already budgeted for the support.
Being ‘outsourced’, we have the flexibility to build our team to provide services to more than one client. That means that we can respond where there are ‘peaks’ with one client because there’s probably ‘troughs’ with another client.
This comes in handy where a client’s business is growing by acquisition or licensing or distribution deals, or the business reshapes its portfolio with disposals or out-licensing. For many businesses, these transactions don’t occur regularly, and can be time and resource intensive for short periods.
Of course, our charge for ‘peak’ periods is higher beyond the fixed monthly retainer to reflect the additional resource dedicated to that client.
Where to from here
Our ‘outsourced in-house’ or retainer counsel service has seen us play roles on interesting deals for interesting businesses with people who are great to work with.
We’d love to do this forever and we think the catch to sustaining an ‘outsourced in-house’ or retainer counsel model lies in structuring our costs well in addition to providing a great service.
We are a boutique law firm based in Singapore providing quality business law solutions for clients in the Asia Pacific region.