What is a Legal Counsel?

Updated: Feb 19

A legal counsel is a lawyer that is employed by their corporate client. They do not work for a private law firm but within the business itself.

Legal Counsel are, first and foremost, qualified lawyers. Legal Counsel are, however, different to regular private practice lawyers. This article explains how Legal Counsel bring value and deliver legal services to their clients.

Author: Farrah Motley, Legal Principal of Prosper Law.

Legal Counsel

The Client

Unlike private practice lawyers, Legal Counsel have one client. That one client is comprised of a single corporate client, but it can also include that client's parent company, sister companies and subsidiaries.

Because Legal Counsel are expected to support their client to deliver commercial outcomes, as well reduce legal risk, Legal Counsel understand how important it is to get to know their client's business.

This is a learned skill; it's about asking plenty of questions, taking interest in all aspects of the business and taking note of issues that (on their face) might not immediately appear to present a legal issue or something which requires legal input.

The Area of Practice

Rather than being pigeon-holed into one area of law, Legal Counsel are (for the most part) expected to learn and navigate a broad range of areas of law.

If the client has a legal issue crop up in relation an area of law that is not within the Legal Counsel's usual day-to-day remit, Legal Counsel are expected to:

  1. if the issue is complex or may have serious ramifications, recognise their limitations and seek to delegate; or

  2. quickly develop the skills required to tackle that issue and resolve it.

The Soft Skills

Legal Counsel are expected to integrate fully into their client's business. This means that they must be professional (as all lawyers should be), but also personable and able to adapt to working with non-lawyers and a workplace culture that is not targeted at legal professionals.

Being able to explain complex legal concepts in simple terms is critical. If a Legal Counsel's advice is (legally and technically) accurate, but the client gets lost in legalese or doesn't understand how to implement the advice, the Legal Counsel has not done their job properly.

An extension to being able to explain complex legal concepts in simple terms, is the ability to train staff. Whether its about contracts, intellectual property or the Australian Consumer Law, Legal Counsel must be able to impart their knowledge on relevant staff within the client's business.

You can find out more about the role of Legal Counsel here.

Prosper Law

Prosper Law's Legal Principal, Farrah Motley, has been a Legal Counsel for over 8+ years.

Having spent nearly her whole career working as an in-house legal counsel for businesses, Farrah is uniquely positioned to provide commercial and practical business legal advice.

Click the link here to learn more about Prosper Law's legal counsel services.

Author: Farrah Motley | Legal Principal

PROSPER LAW - A Law Firm for Businesses

M: 0422 721 121

E: farrah@prosperlaw.com.au

W: www.prosperlaw.com.au

A: Suite No. 99, Level 54, One One One Eagle Street, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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