Sydun & Co Solicitors

Corporate Law Firm vs. In-house Legal Team: How to Choose?


If you are an entrepreneur or primary decision-maker in an Australian organisation, you must have heard about commercial law. 

And although you may know the benefits of having legal counsel on your team, you might be wondering whether to hire a corporate law firm or an in-house legal expert for your legal requirements. 

Both options have their advantages and drawbacks, and the ultimate decision depends on your specific business requirements.

To help you make an informed decision, we’ll explore the key differences between a commercial law firm and in-house counsel and help you determine which option is best suited for your business. But before that, we’ll brush up on the basics!

What is Commercial Law?

Commercial law is the rulebook for all things business-related. From contracts and transactions to disputes and liabilities, commercial law ensures every business in Australia plays by the same set of rules.

Commercial law helps to ensure that your business operates safely while also protecting your business’s reputation. 

Why Should You Have a Company Lawyer for Your Business? 

Whether you’re planning to hire a corporate law firm or establish an in-house team of lawyers, having a legal counsel on your team has several benefits: 

  • Legal Compliance and Risk Mitigation

A commercial lawyer ensures that your business is compliant with all the intricate regulations and helps you steer clear of legal complexities.

  • Contract Drafting and Negotiation

Every business is built on a foundation of contracts. Supplier agreements, employment contracts, licence agreements, commercial leases amongst others., are the backbone of your operations. 

A skilled commercial lawyer drafts contracts that protect your interests. Plus, they’re experts at negotiating contract terms with your potential business partners, vendors, or suppliers. 

  • Dispute Resolution and Litigation Support

Even when you’re pretty sure you’re operating your business within the legal net, disputes may arise. Commercial lawyers will help you resolve issues through negotiation or mediation. However, if all other avenues for resolution are exhausted, they’ll also represent you and your business in court. 

The Role of a Corporate Law Firm

Commercial or corporate law firms bring a team of company lawyers with extensive expertise and are ready to serve your business. These firms are versatile and equipped with a vast array of legal tools. They have the required experience to tackle whatever legal challenges come your way.

The Benefits of Hiring a Commercial Law Firm

  • Expertise and Specialisation: Commercial law firms offer laser-focused expertise. These legal experts specialise in several areas, including corporate law, intellectual property rights, employee agreements and more. They will skilfully engineer solutions uniquely tailored to your business needs.  
  • Cost-Effective Legal Solutions: Instead of maintaining a full-time, in-house legal team, you pay for the specific services you need when you need them. It’s more cost-effective than you imagine. 
  • Access to a Network of Legal Professionals: A reputed corporate law firm can tap into its extensive contacts to bring in specialists when necessary. 

Downsides of Choosing a Commercial Law Firm

  • Lack of In-Depth Understanding of Your Business: Commercial law firms work with a variety of businesses, and sometimes that means they might not have an intimate knowledge of your specific industry or your business’s unique needs. To overcome this challenge, perform due diligence and hire a law firm that specialises in your business area. 
  • Limited Availability: Lastly, availability can sometimes be an issue. Top-notch commercial law firms can be in high demand. Therefore, before hiring a law firm, ensure to understand their communication style and frequency. Ensure your law firm has a clear communication channel, and you can reach out to them whenever necessary. 

The Role of In-House Counsel

A team, including an in-house company lawyer or lawyers, is dedicated exclusively to your business, become embedded within your team, and are ready to tackle any legal challenges that come your way. 

The Benefits of Employing In-House Counsel

  • Cost Predictability: In-house counsel typically works on a fixed salary. Therefore, you can budget your legal expenses more effectively without any surprises.
  • Immediate Accessibility: Whether you hire a remote-based or office-based in-house team, and regardless of the settings, you get a quick (almost immediate) response. You don’t have to wait for external lawyers to get back to you.

The Downsides of Having In-House Counsel

  • Limited Expertise in Specialised Areas: Sometimes, you might need a specialist in a niche area of law. Your in-house legal experts can handle the day-to-day stuff. But in certain tricker situations, you might require calling in a specialist external lawyer particularly where litigation is concerned.
  • Fixed Overhead Costs: Having in-house counsel means offering a consistent salary, employee benefits, and other employee privileges regardless of the volume of legal work. 
  • Potential Isolation from Legal Trends: In-house counsel can sometimes get caught up in your business’s daily grind, missing out on the broader legal landscape. They might not be as tuned in to the latest legal trends or changes in Australian legislation as external law firms whose business is the law itself.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between the Two

Now that you know the benefits and disadvantages of both a commercial law firm and an in-house legal team, let’s take a look at the factors to consider when making this vital decision.

  1. The Nature of Your Business

What kind of business are you running? 

If you’re in a highly regulated industry like finance or healthcare, you might need both – the constant support of an in-house counsel and the special expertise of a commercial firm or a barrister. 

However, if you own a small business, a commercial law firm might be more cost-effective.

  1. Budgetary Considerations

In-house counsel comes with a fixed overhead cost, while a commercial law firm operates on a pay-as-you-go basis. Weigh your budget against your legal needs. Are you ready for a long-term commitment or looking for flexibility?

  1. Legal Needs and Specialisations

Not all legal matters are created equal. If your business frequently deals with complex, specialised legal issues such as intellectual property or international trade, a corporate law firm with niche expertise might be your best bet. 

Wrapping Up

Whether you opt for the tailored expertise of a commercial law firm or the in-house dedication of your legal team, what truly matters is that you’re equipped to navigate the legal complexities that lie ahead and have some expertise on your side.

So, access your needs and do your research to find the best legal expertise for your business. 

More To Explore