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Trim your legal costs; buy a ‘piece’ of an attorney

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in Human Resources

Issue: So-called "fractional attorneys" allow you to buy a few hours of a lawyer's time each month.

Benefit: Put out legal fires before they become infernos ... without incurring steep attorney-retainer rates.

Action: Weigh the pros and cons, outlined below, before exploring further.

Your organization may not need, or be able to afford, a corporate lawyer down the hall, or even one on retainer. Solution: Obtain the right amount of occasional legal service by using a new breed of so-called "fractional general counsels."

Here's how it works: Your organization commits to using an attorney for a few hours each month, typically from two to six hours.

The business pays a flat, discounted fee for that time, whether it's used or not, and pays a more traditional rate for any hours beyond that base.

The pros: This system lets you talk over potentially risky situations as they occur, helping you avoid legal and regulatory missteps. You receive a lower rate for legal services, typically 20 to 30 percent cheaper.

With a monthly bill, you also increase the predictability of your legal expenses, which helps with budgeting. And you form a relationship and trust with a lawyer.

The cons: A fractional attorney could waste your money if you don't regularly use the monthly allotment of hours.

And if your business is heavily regulated or in a unique industry, that arrange-ment may not provide the expertise you need.

Bottom line: If you require an attorney's help only rarely, don't bother with a fractional counsel. But if legal assistance is an important, steady need, it could be a wise option to pursue.

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