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A legal counsel is a lawyer that is employed by their corporate client. They do not work for a private law firm but within the business itself.

Legal counsels are, first and foremost, qualified lawyers. Legal counsels are different from regular private practice lawyers. This article explains how legal counsels bring value and deliver legal services to their clients.

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Author: Farrah Motley, Legal Principal of Prosper Law and an in-house lawyer.

An overview of topics covered in this article

This article will take you through what legal counsel is. You can skip ahead by clicking the links below.

  • The legal counsel’s client
  • The area of practice the legal counsel works in
  • The soft skills of a legal counsel
  • How can Prosper Law Help?

The legal counsel’s client

Unlike private practice lawyers, a legal counsel has one client. That one client is comprised of a single corporate client, but it can also include that client’s parent company, sister companies and subsidiaries.

Because Legal Counsels are expected to support their client to deliver commercial outcomes, as well as reduce legal risk, Legal Counsels understand how important it is to get to know their client’s business.

The area of practice the legal counsel works in

This is a learned skill; it’s about asking plenty of questions, taking interest in all aspects of the business and taking note of issues that (on their face) might not immediately appear to present a legal issue or something which requires legal input.

The area of practice the legal counsel works in

Rather than being pigeon-holed into one area of law, Legal Counsel are (for the most part) expected to learn and navigate a broad range of areas of law.

If the client has a legal issue crop up in relation to an area of law that is not within the Legal Counsel’s usual day-to-day remit, the Legal Counsel is expected to:

  1. If the issue is complex or may have serious ramifications, recognise their limitations and seek to delegate; or
  2. Quickly develop the skills required to tackle that issue and resolve it.

The soft skills of a legal counsel

A Legal Counsel is expected to integrate fully into their client’s business. This means that they must be professional (as all lawyers should be), but also personable and able to adapt to working with non-lawyers and a workplace culture that is not targeted at legal professionals.

Being able to explain complex legal concepts in simple terms is critical. If a Legal Counsel’s advice is (legally and technically) accurate, but the client gets lost in legalese or doesn’t understand how to implement the advice, the Legal Counsel has not done their job properly.

An extension of being able to explain complex legal concepts in simple terms is the ability to train staff. Whether it is about contracts, intellectual property or the Australian Consumer Law, Legal Counsel must be able to impart their knowledge on relevant staff within the client’s business.

You can find out more about the role of Legal Counsel here.

How can Prosper Law help?

Prosper Law is Australia’s online law firm. We provide legal advice to businesses and individuals across Australia. Our areas of legal practice include contracts, eCommerce, publishing, legal counsel and employment law.

If you need to talk to an in-house legal counsel, get in touch today.

Contact the team at Prosper Law today to discuss how we can provide you with in-house legal advice for a fixed fee or at affordable hourly rates.

Enjoyed this article? Check out What is professional indemnity insurance?

Farrah Motley | Legal Principal

PROSPER LAW – Australia’s Online Law Firm

M: 0422 721 121

E: farrah@prosperlaw.com.au

W: www.prosperlaw.com.au

A: Suite No. 99, Level 54, 111 Eagle Street, Brisbane, Queensland Australia 4000

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