Hybrid Legal Consultation in the Time of Coronavirus: A New Profession Arises.
The global coronavirus crisis presents a myriad of challenges, and creates a new reality where uncertainty prevails.
It seems that no industry or company, whether local or global, has been unaffected. All need to reassess and make adjustment and many changes.
Like many companies, law firms, locally and worldwide, have transformed their way of operations and they now work from home.
Employees can continue to support the customers and clients using remote access to office systems of the office and the clients.
And like external lawyers, the in-house legal consultants of companies find themselves working from home, in a new working environment.
No doubt, it’s a very challenging time that demands technical modifications and further adjustments. Patience is needed as well as many other changes, such as developing the ability to create a clear separation between work and private and family life, managing and entertaining children during work hours, and coping with the feeling of isolation and distance from the other employees.
Does the coronavirus crisis actually presents an opportunity to create a new legal hybrid job: a mix of the external legal counsel and the in-house legal counsel.
Or, to put it differently, has a new legal counsel been created: the external in-house?
It is common knowledge that there are substantial differences between in-house legal consultants and external legal consultants.
While the external lawyer is occupied mostly by strictly professional legal issues, and while this lawyer’s level of knowledge of the business side and the company’s management is limited, the in-house legal consultant is an inseparable part of the company and mostly consults in a much more practical way that is suited to the character and the DNA of the company.
These are meaningful differences that affect all aspects of legal work for a company.
The way an in-house legal consultant thinks is much more businesslike, as the in-house legal consultant functions as an integral, inseparable part of the different teams in the company.
This consultant’s contributions are very practical and very oriented towards advancing the business side of the company and not just protecting the company.
In addition, the in-house legal consultant takes part in decision making in the company, unlike the external legal consultant, whose job usually ends at the consultation stage.
Legal departments of companies are facing many challenges during this crisis period that demand modifications and the ability to adjust and get back on track quickly.
Like his colleagues, the in-house legal consultants, the external legal consultant works from home and not from the company’s site.
Now, when there is little difference between working from home and working from the office, the work of the external legal consultants and in-house legal consultants is similar, with both supporting the activity of the company from afar.
And this is exactly the point in time when a new legal consultant is born: the hybrid legal consultant
(a mix of external and in-house).
So, what is actually the job of the new legal consultant?
First, it should be noted what isn’t the job of the new legal consultant.
The job of the external in-house legal consultant doesn’t start and end with a mere legal consultation, which may be sufficient under normal conditions, but most certainly isn’t enough in a time of crisis like that of the coronavirus.
The job of the new legal consultant is to manage the legal department of the company, the staff of the in-house consultants of the department, and to operate as an inseparable part of the division;
indeed, an additional branch of the department.
As such, the way of working and thinking of the external legal in-house consultant must be modified to resemble that of the in-house legal consultants.
The external legal in-house consultant cannot merely provide legal consultation; this consultant must be deeply familiar with the company’s business side, how the company operates, the different positions in the company and the people that hold these positions, the company’s management, the company’s objectives and the decision-making process in the company.
This consultant also must quickly adjust to the corporate culture of the company, and learn how to integrate the legal work and ensure that it exactly fits the needs and the language of the company.
The contribution and added value that the new legal consultant can bring to clients have significant meaning, since, in addition to the legal work, the new legal consultant helps the company and offers solutions to business needs that are not handled today by in-house and external lawyers.
As a result, the legal department benefits from a new team member, helping it on a regular basis in a very flexible way, and without high employment costs.
The trend of hybrid legal services, both external and in-house, is gathering momentum and has become more and more common in the business world in recent years.
There’s no question that the coronavirus crisis sets the ground for a new type of job that can provide solutions for needs that are not being met today and that will be more and more common in the future.