How to Recruit Legal Counsel for Your Growing Business

Oct 26, 2021 | Listen

How to Recruit Legal Counsel for Your Growing Business

Business growth brings along new opportunities, increased revenue and productivity, and more employees. But it sometimes comes with unexpected legal issues. As a founder, you might already be thinking about recruiting legal counsel for your growing business due to the following:

  • Intellectual property requirements
  • Planning an IPO
  • Facing possible litigation
  • Entering several big contracts and transactions
  • And, other day-to-day legal issues that are a part of running a business

So when is it time – and what is the process – of hiring in-house or recruiting legal counsel?

What should you look for in an applicant, and what is a realistic budget for this investment?

My guest Amy Rowland, founder of Varia Search, a boutique legal recruiting firm, talks about the fine art of recruiting legal counsel into your business, from fractional legal help to hiring an in-house counsel full-time.

We also talk about how your company can benefit from the proper in-house counsel, including knowing your business better and responding quickly to your legal concerns and requirements.

Timestamps for this week’s episode

  • 2:00 How is a Fractional Talent Acquisition Consultant different from a recruiter specializing in the legal field?

  • 3:00 Definition of terms: What is outside counsel, in-house counsel, and general counsel?

  • 5:00 When do you know it’s time to hire someone to be your in-house counsel vs. just an outside counsel?

  • 7:15 What should business owners look for when recruiting legal counsel?

  • 12:40 How do fractional legal counsels work?

  • 21:07 What is the next tangible step to take to determine if your business needs in-house legal counsel?

A legal recruiter helps businesses find contracted – but mostly full-time – employees who will come and serve as in-house legal counsels.

A Fractional Talent Acquisition Partner, on the other hand, assists founders with a wide range of services – from training and finding other employees outside of the legal realm.

What a lot of startup founder or other company founders realize is that even when they hire their first in-house counsel, they still need to use outside counsel, because it's rare that one person can do anything.

Definition of terms: What is an outside counsel, in-house counsel, and general counsel?

  • Outside counsel

Independent lawyers or law firms you go to for specific legal matters.

They will have clients other than you and your business.

  • In-house Counsel

Your company’s lawyers who are also full-time members of your staff.

They don’t have other clients and serve only your legal needs such as employee and other transactional contracts.

  • General Counsel

Usually runs the entire legal department of any company, from a startup to a Fortune 500 company. They will also have a team of lawyers and paralegals, and contract managers working under them.

“The number one thing that you want to look for when you’re hiring your first in-house counsel is that they have the ability to wear many hats.” – Amy Rowland

The number one quality to look out for is the candidate’s ability to wear many hats and operate at a quick-moving pace.

There’s a very big difference between working at a law firm and working in-house for a smaller, growing company where you’re being thrown many different issues and have business units that need answers quickly.

You want a quick learner who can cover other issues as well, so you can decrease your spending on outside counsel.

There are different models, but some set up a billable rate and then dedicate X amount of hours to your business per month on a retainer basis.

For a start-up, your best person is going to be somebody just generally nimble, agile, and a quick learner - and they need to be hungry.

Actionable Step

Evaluate how ready you are by:

  • Listing down all your legal needs (such as IP, IPO, compliance, and contract requirements)
  • Sit down, crunch numbers, and do your cost analysis
  • Discuss with the leaders within your business if it is time
  • Reach out to a legal recruiter for a consultation to talk about your needs

  • Legal recruiters and Fractional Talent Acquisition Consultants specializing in legal recruiting can help you fill counsel positions in your company and advise you on the type of legal counsel you might need.
  • Most businesses work with three types of legal counsel:
    • Outside counsel or independent law firms that can handle special legal needs
    • In-house counsel or lawyers that are full-time members of your staff.
    • General counsel or the head of a company’s entire legal department.
  • When hiring an in-house counsel, the top quality to look out for in a candidate is their ability to learn quickly, wear many hats, and be versatile and agile.
  • If you are not ready to commit to a full-time in-house legal counsel, you can opt to hire a Fractional Legal Counsel as well. They offer several different service models on retainer and it is a great way to test the waters before you commit to something full-time.
  • Finally, to determine if your business needs in-house legal counsel :
    • Make a list of all your legal needs, including recurring requirements and one-offs.
    • Do your cost analysis to determine if hiring one full-time versus outsourcing to outside counsel is financially more efficient
    • Discuss with your leaders or fellow founders
    • Reach out to a legal recruiter for a consultation


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About guest – Amy Rowland


Varia Search

Amy Rowland is the founder of Varia Search, a boutique legal recruiting firm that fills legal department roles, from general counsel to paralegals, of startups and tech companies.

Amy is also the host of the popular ‘Fashionably Late’ podcast, which features people who have found career fulfillment after a pivot.



About host – Kathy Svetina

Kathy Svetina is a Fractional CFO for growing small businesses with $10M+ in annual revenue.

Clients hire her when they’re unsure about what’s going on in their finances, are stressed out by making financial decisions, or need to structure their finances to keep up with their growth.

She solves their nagging money mysteries and builds a financial structure with a tailored financial strategy. That way they can grow in a financially healthy and sustainable way.

Kathy is based in Chicago, IL and works with clients all over the US.

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