If your company is going through a busy transitional period with boatloads of legal work to go around, hiring freelance corporate counsel may be a good idea. It's a great way to remedy productivity constraints while being mindful of budgetary concerns.
Here are five tips to keep in mind for using freelance corporate counsel:
Find freelancers through trusted references. When it comes to hiring freelance corporate counsel, it's absolutely crucial to make sure their actual performance skills align with their credentials on paper. Try screening freelance candidates by using the same approach you use to find outside counsel. For starters, do your due diligence and check a freelancer's references. If you must use a third party or farm out the search, direct your due diligence to finding a staffing agency with a proven track record.
Recognize freelancers' expectations. In general, the ideal freelancer is one who can move with the company's changing needs. A flexible freelancer is likely to be available for a variety of needs over the long haul. Freelancers chasing a more traditional gig may be best used for short-term projects. If it's not clear what their objectives are, be sure ask them up-front about their expectations and commitment levels.
Don't low-ball compensation. To have a freelancer's undivided attention and loyalty, it's important to pay in line with in-house compensation. You don't need to pay as high as law firm rates, but you shouldn't assume a freelance candidate would accept a contract attorney's pay grade. It will be much easier to attract and retain talented freelancers with a respectable rate.
Make them feel like they're part of the team. Although freelancers may not be permanent fixtures at your company, it's important to keep 'em happy and make them feel included. When possible, let them attend meetings, invite them to company events, assign them company email addresses, and introduce them to staff. It's important to protect the company by having freelancers sign confidentiality agreements, but you don't have to be overly cagey and alienate them.
Establish a go-to person. Since your freelance counsel may have different questions and concerns along the way, establish a point of contact. Even may be especially helpful to set up a bi-weekly check-in -- just to make sure everything's on track and everyone's on the same page. If you have a sizeable team, appoint a "team leader" or pair a primary supervising contact with each freelancer. Bi-weekly calls or Skype sessions could also be helpful.
Hey, you never know. Maybe after rubbing shoulders with freelance counsel, you'll get inspired and try it out yourself.