Heriot Brown

As a start-up company grows, legal issues become increasingly important. Whether it’s navigating regulatory requirements, protecting intellectual property, or negotiating contracts, there are a variety of legal issues that start-ups must address to ensure long-term success. While many start-ups rely on external legal counsel for these issues, there comes a time when it may be necessary to hire an in-house lawyer to provide more specialised and dedicated legal support. In this whitepaper, we will explore why and when start-ups should consider hiring their first in-house lawyer, and provide tips on how to find and onboard the right legal talent.

Why hire an in-house lawyer?

The decision to hire an in-house lawyer is not one that should be taken lightly, but there are several compelling reasons why a start-up might want to consider it:

1. Cost-effectiveness: While hiring an in-house lawyer may seem like an expensive proposition, it can actually be cost-effective in the long run. External legal counsel can be expensive, and the cost of legal services can quickly add up. By hiring an in-house lawyer, a start-up can better manage its legal expenses, as well as benefit from the ongoing legal support and advice of a dedicated legal professional.

2. Specialised legal support: As a start-up grows, it may face increasingly complex legal issues that require specialised expertise. An in-house lawyer can provide that expertise, developing a deep understanding of the company’s business and legal needs and providing targeted legal support to address them.

3. Faster response times: External legal counsel often have multiple clients and may not be able to provide the same level of responsiveness and attention as an in-house lawyer. By hiring an in-house lawyer, a start-up can benefit from faster response times and more dedicated support.

4. Regulatory compliance: Many start-ups operate in highly regulated industries, and regulatory compliance can be a significant challenge. An in-house lawyer can help ensure that the company is in compliance with all applicable regulations, reducing the risk of legal and financial penalties.

When to hire an in-house lawyer?

While there are many benefits to hiring an in-house lawyer, it’s important for start-ups to carefully consider when the time is right to make this investment. Here are some key considerations:

1. Growing legal needs: As a start-up grows, so too do its legal needs. If your start-up is experiencing increasing legal demands, such as negotiating more complex contracts, or dealing with regulatory compliance, it may be time to consider hiring an in-house lawyer.

2. Funding rounds: Funding rounds are a critical time for start-ups, and having an in-house lawyer can help ensure that the process is smooth and legally sound. A lawyer can help structure the funding round, draft the necessary legal documents, and ensure compliance with securities laws.

3. Expansion into new markets: If your start-up is expanding into new markets, it may face new legal challenges and regulations. An in-house lawyer can help navigate these challenges and ensure that the company is compliant with all applicable laws and regulations.

4. Intellectual property protection: Protecting intellectual property is essential for many start-ups, especially those in the tech industry. An in-house lawyer can help develop and implement strategies for protecting intellectual property, such as filing patents or trademarks.

5. Litigation risk: If your start-up is facing litigation or potential legal disputes, it may be time to consider hiring an in-house lawyer. A lawyer can help assess the legal risks and develop a strategy for addressing them, potentially saving the company significant legal costs and avoiding negative legal outcomes.

Tips for hiring your first in-house lawyer

If you’ve decided that it’s time to hire your first in-house lawyer, here are some tips to help you find and onboard the right legal talent:

1. Define the role: Before hiring an in-house lawyer, it’s important to define the role and responsibilities of the position. This includes determining what legal issues the lawyer will be responsible for, what skills and qualifications are required, and what the lawyer’s day-to-day responsibilities will be.

2. Look for experience: When hiring an in-house lawyer, look for someone with experience in the specific legal issues your start-up is likely to face. For example, if your start-up is in the tech industry, look for a lawyer with experience in intellectual property law, contract law, and regulatory compliance.

3. Culture fit: It’s important to find an in-house lawyer who not only has the right legal expertise but also fits in with your start-up’s culture and values. This can help ensure that the lawyer is effective in their role and can work collaboratively with the rest of the team.

4. Communication skills: An effective in-house lawyer should have strong communication skills, including the ability to explain legal issues in simple terms and to work collaboratively with other members of the team. Look for a lawyer who is a clear and effective communicator.

5. Establish expectations: Once you have hired an in-house lawyer, it’s important to establish clear expectations and guidelines for their role. This includes setting goals and priorities, establishing communication protocols, and providing ongoing feedback and support.

Overall, hiring an in-house lawyer can be a valuable investment for a start-up, helping to ensure that the company is legally sound and positioned for long-term success. By following these tips, you can find the right lawyer for your start-up and set them up for success in their role.

Heriot Brown In-House Legal Recruitment is a market leading recruitment business dedicated to helping lawyers find fulfilling careers across the in-house legal community. Our fantastic team has extensive experience and are sector vertical aligned. We are passionate and curious about the industries we recruit into, giving us unrivalled industry knowledge.

If you’re considering hiring your first legal counsel, get in touch for advice on all of the above plus salary guidance for your new in-house lawyer from our recent high growth tech salary survey.