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Are contract in-house attorneys necessary? Fenwick & West thinks so. The Silicon Valley law firm offers a unique program for its clients who are not ready to hire a full-time in-house attorney, but still need an affordable lawyer for licensing and contract work.
The "Flex by Fenwick" program is also an opportunity for attorneys looking to be in-house at a range of Silicon Valley startups. Their "Flex Plans" offer their clients options of hiring a Flex attorney on a quarterly or a weekly model. An attorney can expect to get a project that can range from a few hours per week, to a couple of days, and up to full-time.
According to a 2013 Report on the State of the Legal Market, the legal profession is overcapacity. Westlaw Insider reports one analyst’s view that our legal profession has too many lawyers coming out of law school — without enough positions to go around. In this rough time, law firms are coming up with solutions that address their problems of losing clients while helping more attorneys find work, albeit part-time or on a contract basis.
The difference between Flex and other legal staffing options is that being a Flex attorney is like being a Fenwick employee. Flex by Fenwick provides attorneys with malpractice insurance, access to their 401k plan, MCLE seminars, and health benefits for those working at least 50 percent time. Attorneys with full-time assignments even get paid time off.
The program is a real opportunity for in-house counsel to gain more experience working with the tech industry. Stanford Law School’s dean Larry Kramer stated that Fenwick is known as a law firm that really knows how to nurture and grow a startup. But the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Fenwick’s lawyers have also worked with the big boys, Apple and Oracle to name a few.
There are other programs that hire out in-house counsel to provide former BigLaw associates with a better work-life balance such as Axiom Legal, but Flex is unique in that it’s a law firm running the program for their own clients.
The San Francisco Business Times reported on Fenwick & West’s program when it began a few years ago. Fenwick started this alternative staffing model when they found a need to address their technology clients who were in need of contract and licensing work, but retained lower cost attorneys outside their firm. The firm didn’t want to lose out on these clients to smaller firms. So, instead, they hired those attorneys to take the work on at a lower rate.
This sounds like a great opportunity, right? Well it could be for the experienced attorney. A Flex attorney, according to the San Francisco Business Times, must have at least seven years of experience in licensing or contract work. Attorneys must have also practiced in a law firm and in-house for a company.
So Flex isn’t for everyone, but it is a great idea growning up in the home of great ideas, Silicon Valley. Let’s see what happens.