Corporate counsel are part of the legal department of a company. They are also known as legal counsel or, more informally, in-house lawyers. Their job is a crucial part of a business and all large corporations have at least one corporate counsel.
The job of a corporate counsel is to oversee employment contracts, draft business contracts, and advise on commercial law matters in a business. Essentially, the corporate counsel helps businesses navigate through all kinds of law related to the business. For instance, when you apply for a job in a company, do you know who drafts your employment contract? It is the legal counsel who does it, making sure your rights as well as the company’s are fulfilled. When a business signs on a vendor, it is also the legal counsel’s job to prepare a contract that ensures the vendors keep their promises to the company. Sometimes one company decides to form a partnership with another company to pursue a common business goal. The corporate counsel’s job is to prepare the contract that outlines in detail the benefits and obligations of both companies. The corporate counsel must list out any eventuality so that both companies have a clear understanding of their roles. One of the elements a corporate counsel inserts in a contract is an escape clause, which is a rule that allows either party to exit from the contract. For instance, in an employment contract, a member of the staff can resign providing he gives a month’s notice. With large businesses, either party to a contract can leave if they fulfil certain requirements or pay a fee as compensation.
Other elements in a contract are the terms of agreement so that there are no grey areas which can lead to conflict and argument later on. Because the details are often very technical, no lay person can produce such a contract, hence the need for a corporate counsel. There are many kinds of situations and partnerships that require different kinds of contracts. A local airline that wants to start a new route to a foreign country will need a contract between the new airbase and itself. A property development company will need a contract when partnering with the local government to develop a plot of land. Often, the company will also hire a legal firm for advice and to help them draw up contracts and agreements, especially when it comes to very large transactions. The corporate counsel will be the person liaising with the lawyers from the law firm, instructing them on what the company requires and providing the necessary information. A corporate counsel who is an expert in a certain field comes in handy for industry-specific companies. For instance, a shipping company can benefit from an expert on shipping laws while a property management company will need someone who can advise on land law environmental law or construction law as well as cross border transactions, which are purchases with businesses in other countries.
The corporate counsel may not attend court hearings or do much of the same work as a practicing lawyer, but that does not mean their work is less important. They are the ones that help to ensure the business runs smoothly and according to the rules and regulations. They can be considered the backbone of any company.
Did You Know?
Everyone who has ever watched a TV show about cops has heard them say the line “You have a right to remain silent...!’ This warning is commonly known in the US as a ‘Miranda warning’ or your Miranda rights: It originated from the landmark case of Miranda V Arizona. In the UK, the rights caution given to suspects changed in 1994. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you fail to mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say will be given in evidence.