An in-house attorney can foster collaboration and help lead your business to success

Outsourced legal advice has its place, but an in-house attorney, with in-depth knowledge of your business may be more effective in helping move your organization forward and meeting your goals.

“When attorneys are in-house, they are tapped into the organization and have their finger on the pulse of both what is happening and where the organization wants to go, allowing them to collaborate and contribute to the process,” says Rose Fini, chief legal and ethics officer at Cleveland Metroparks.

Smart Business spoke with Fini about how an in-house attorney can do much more than tell you no — instead driving your organization forward to reach new heights.

What are the benefits of an in-house attorney?

When you have an energetic and creative CEO, an attorney doing the research on new initiatives helps promote a results-oriented strategy. With someone in-house, you can move swiftly. The attorney is not a barrier to change and, in the best case, is sometimes leading that change. It’s easy to know what the law says, but a creative lawyer who is all in on the organization’s mission and is willing to do the research, can creatively find solutions within the legal framework.

Through effective collaboration, the attorney will communicate with colleagues that they are a partner in finding solutions. Too many organizations have a culture of avoiding the legal department, so it critical to build relationships so people trust you to work with them to get to a ‘yes.’ A large part is understanding whether something is legally possible and how you can make it work. An in-house legal department can be a driver of innovation, moving an organization forward — not just reacting when issues arise.

How can an in-house attorney save an organization time and money?

You don’t have to spend time and resources shoring up outside counsel on every project. Instead, you’re joined at the hip with a business partner who understands what you are trying to accomplish from the start, who is anticipating issues, tackling problems and overcoming legal issues as you go.

There are times when you do need outside counsel and can form great partnerships. However, having someone internally provides a time-saving component that allows for matters to be expedited. That provides high returns, timeliness and cost savings, as an in-house attorney is being paid oftentimes at a more modest hourly rate compared to outside counsel.

How can an ethics management plan benefit from having an in-house attorney?

Having someone in-house allows the organization to be proactive in its legal approach to ethics. For public entities, Ohio law spells out an ethics roadmap organizations must follow. In-house counsel can work with colleagues and clients proactively to make sure they stay within the ethics guardrails.

Counsel can evaluate potential conflicts of interest that employees or board members may have with respect to contracts and ensure they don’t make incorrect decisions. It allows you to create a management plan that has been reviewed to ensure it doesn’t include any ethics landmines, staying ahead of the curve and on the right path.

The role of an in-house attorney is ongoing, educating employees on integrity and core values, onboarding new employees by teaching ethics up front and creating an ethics ethos, a culture to ensure everyone is on the right path.

The key is open communication. If someone is not sure what to do, all employees should know they have complete access to in-house counsel.

It’s about collaboration and working together to get things done. The best impact an in-house attorney can have is to help an organization problem-solve, and offer solutions and opportunities for innovation that help it thrive. ●

INSIGHTS Ethics is brought to you by Cleveland Metroparks

Rose Fini

Chief legal and ethics officer


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