ARE YOU AN "INNIE" OR AN "OUTIE"? Advantages and Disadvantages of Both

By Thompson, Chuck | Public Management, November 2017 | Go to article overview

ARE YOU AN "INNIE" OR AN "OUTIE"? Advantages and Disadvantages of Both


Thompson, Chuck, Public Management


Here at the International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA), we are often asked whether in-house or outside attorneys are best in serving as the chief legal officer for a local government. Like most lawyers, we answer "It depends."

The advantages of outside counsel include the fact that you only pay for what you need and in most cases, the firm brings with it a number of other lawyers who specialize in various areas of the law. With in-house counsel, a local government pays an attorney a salary regardless of the amount of work assigned.

In many instances, the attorney might not specialize in important areas of the law; for example, the issue may involve a complex environmental law issue or require an attorney who specializes in litigation.

How should a manager decide which works best for a community?

Deliberating Core Elements

Here are basics to consider when deciding on counsel:

1 Analyze on what you are spending your community's legal dollar. If the bulk of the work is repetitive, routine, and does not involve specialization, then managers will want to consider costs.

If most of the spending is on complex litigation or specialized areas of the law, then outside counsel will likely serve management needs the best, but managers will want to keep tabs on controlling the expenses.

2 If it looks like the work is routine, then determine at what level lawyers in the area are compensated. If there are other local governments with in-house counsel, that can be a good comparison. If this compensation information is not available, try using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics information for your area to get some of the data.

3 Determine the percentage of salary that benefits will add to the cost. …

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