Is it a good idea? Probably not. Your time is better spent thinking about business strategy, hiring, marketing, and building a company that actually makes money.
In my previous posts, I discussed things you should have in place before you launch your startup, agreements and policies your SaaS should have in place, and some must-do’s when your startup is ready to level up. Everything I mentioned in those posts would be much easier for you if you have an attorney by your side.
The legal model for startups these days is a General Counsel as a Service. LegalZoom started it, and companies like Atrium are revolutionizing it. You pay a subscription fee on a monthly basis – a flat rate, no matter how much you use – and send your legal questions, contracts, requirements, etc. over to your account manager at one of these companies. Think of it as Retainer 2.0 – except you’re paying, no matter how much you’re using.
So – what kind of stuff can a General Counsel as a Service handle? Well, that really depends on the service you choose – but here are some traditional responsibilities of a General Counsel:
- Watch the Companies Back. This is important. The General Counsel is not your lawyer – they are the company lawyer. So their job will be to watch the companies back. That means if you and a co-founder are quarreling, go find another lawyer because they (likely) cannot and will not represent you personally.
- Make Sure your Documents are Good. The General Counsel knows that your incorporation documents need to be on point, especially if you plan on raising funding, or going public. Either our investor or the SEC will be taking a close look on everything, and the General Counsel will be the one dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.
- Protect your Intellectual Property. It’s in your companies best interest to own the rights to your name, logo, slogans, product names, and all the related. the General Counsel will file these with the company as owner, and make sure the rest of your intellectual property is protected through various documents.
- Draft and Review Internal Policies, Procedures, and Agreements. From HR policies, to data privacy, to stock purchase agreements, employment agreements, and all of the above – the General Counsel will draft, review, and update these on a regular basis.
- Draft and Review External Policies, Procedures, and Agreements. This includes your Terms of Service, Sales Contracts, Service Level Agreements, Data Privacy Policies, and more.
- Advise on Compliance and Regulations. Are you subject to GDPR? CCPA? HIPAA? Your General Counsel will talk to you about what you need to do, what your liabilities are, and what could happen if you don’t listen.
- Review Every Contract You Sign. You don’t want to accidentally sign away your company, or get into a bad vendor agreement. Your General Counsel should review every contract you sign, with every vendor – to make sure you’re covered.
- Review Term Sheets and Represent Your Best Interests During Fundraising. You, the Entrepreneur, should be the main point of contact with your VC’s. You should have the final say, but your General Counsel should be reviewing the term sheets, redlining the documents – and making sure that you’re not giving up too much on the economics, or control of the company.
- Litigation Support. Most General Counsel are Transactional Attorneys – meaning they don’t go to court. That means that you may need to hire outside counsel for any lawsuits your company is involved in. Your General Counsel will be helping the outside counsel with whatever they need to help you win your suit.
- Think Strategically. Your General Counsel should have some experience with the startup world, and advise you on strategic initiatives for your business from a legal standpoint.
- Be On Call. Your General Counsel should be able to jump on a call with you when you need – to draft a new agreement, review an incoming deal, or discuss a potential deal you have some concerns about.
Let Us Help
I personally have over a decade of experience working in sales and growth with startups and entrepreneurs, and can offer a unique understanding of your specific legal needs.
This is a solo firm, and you won’t be passed to a salesperson, account manager, or any other liaison between you and your attorney.
This post is not legal advice, and does not establish any attorney client privilege between Law Office of K.S. Kader, PLLC and you, the reader.