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What does an in-House Counsel do?

By Christy Bieber
Updated May 16, 2024
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In-house counsel is a lawyer or team of lawyers that works within a corporation, instead of within a law firm. These lawyers handle the legal needs of the company for whom they work, addressing issues such as ensuring that employer discrimination laws are complied with and fair labor rules are obeyed. Depending on the nature of the industry, in-house counsel may have several other duties as well.

When a company faces a legal problem, it generally has two choices. It can hire outside counsel, which means it goes outside the company to a law firm or individual lawyer and asks that lawyer to represent its interests. Alternatively, it can hire a lawyer or attorney to be a part of the corporate staff and have that lawyer handle the given legal issue.

Some companies face legal issues regularly. For example, a commercial real estate company may need to have contracts drawn up on a daily or weekly basis. The real estate company may not wish to have to hire an outside attorney or law firm every time it wants to have a contract drawn up. As such, the real estate company may hire in-house counsel. The in-house counsel in such a situation would be a contract attorney who draws up real estate sales contracts or other contracts the company needs to buy, sell or rent real estate.

A large company may also do a great deal of hiring and firing. Within the United States and many other jurisdictions, such companies have to be careful to comply with the law. The company will want to ensure it cannot be accused of discrimination or other violations of civil rights laws. These companies may hire in-house counsel to provide advice and guidance on compliance with anti-discrimination legislation.

The Fair Labor Standards Act within the United States and similar legislation in other countries also sets rules as far as wage and hour, employee benefits and other related issues. These acts and mandates can sometimes be subject to interpretation. The in-house attorneys at a company can help the company understand its obligations under these worker protection acts.

Generally, if a company is sued, the in-house counsel will not handle the lawsuit itself. Instead, outside counsel will be brought in to manage the litigation that arises. In such situations, the in-house attorneys often oversee the work of the outside counsel and facilitate communication between company employees and hired attorneys.

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Discussion Comments

By anon934669 — On Feb 21, 2014

What the heck do any of your lawyer bashing statements have to do with in-house counsel? Everyone hates lawyers until they need one. Get a hobby.

By Proxy414 — On Mar 06, 2011


It is sad to hear about how many lawyers think they are above the law. Many of them drive drunk and behave in a belligerent manner because they think they can get away with it. One thing that they don't get away from is bad press, which is a lawyer's worst nightmare. Thank God that there are newspapers and media which can hit people like this in their soft spot.

By SilentBlue — On Mar 04, 2011

In-house lawyers, like the Winklevoss lawyer in the movie "social network," are able to get people money by legal maneuvers. These lawyers are the high-end businessmen of the legals system, who can con and charm their way to the judge's heart and take advantage of the jury's psychological biases for the sake of money and court orders.

By BostonIrish — On Mar 01, 2011

The more lawyers a family has, the more it can get away with. A strong example of this is the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, which is a family-church full of lawyers. This church protests thousands of funerals a year with impunity and litigates anybody who stands in their way. Finding the loopholes in the American legal system can help anyone find long-term security and can basically allow people to get around penalties of any kind for any crime.

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