An "in-house" lawyer is an attorney employed directly by a corporation. Therefore, an in-house lawyer does not work for a law firm retained by company. Large corporations may employ a whole department of in-house lawyers to service the corporation’s legal needs.
Many corporations engage in various business activities that require systematic legal attention. Hiring in-house attorneys is generally more cost-effective than retaining a law firm.
An in-house lawyer’s services are frequently required to:
- Negotiate and draft contracts required for corporate business activities
- Ensure compliance with hiring and firing anti-discrimination laws
- Monitor compliance with work wages, hours, and employee benefits laws
- Provide general legal oversight, compliance, and due diligence
- Supervise the work of outside attorneys hired for specific purposes
While an in-house attorney is more like a family doctor for the entire corporation, corporations often face legal issues, such as disputes, which require specialized assistance. For example, if a legal action is filed against the corporation, an in-house lawyer will not generally handle the lawsuit.
Outside legal help may be necessary in a number of instances. For example, a corporation may wish to hire outside counsel for complex legal disputes or when the corporation’s in-house resources are limited. Furthermore, an officer, director, or employee may need to hire outside legal help from an business attorney who will not have a legal duty to the corporation.