We live in a world where virtual services, i.e., services provided remotely by professional or qualified providers, are increasingly popular since they save clients' money by eliminating the need for a part or full-time employee and all the overhead that entails. Organizations can now hire a Virtual General Counsel ("VCG") to help them fill important tasks that require legal competence.

Why Virtual Counsel

Virtual counsel, in broad terms, is an outside lawyer who works remotely to provide frontline legal services to businesses in the same way that a full-time in-house counsel does, but on a casual or part-time basis. The ultimate value of bringing virtual counsel inside the firm is for them to get to know management, work on site  occasionally  and learn about the organisation. The more integrated they are, the more they will learn about the company, which will increase the potential value of their services. Thus, even though they are not a full - time employee of a company, they are still acquainted with all the necessary and relevant legal information of the company.

The reason for a lawyer being down the list is cost and belief of no suits being filed up in the near future. In each of these scenarios where no internal legal support is hired causes huge repercussions and legal costs for Start-ups and Companies at later point in time. A General Counsel is a lawyer who provides strategic insight and business value through legal advice for business by being a part of the team wearing both legal and business hats. A VGC is typically a cost-effective, experienced business lawyer who can handle practically all of the company's legal needs on it's own. On all, except the most sophisticated or specialised legal situations, a VGC functions as a frontline counsel for the business.

A General Counsel is a very important part for any business and considering the budgetary restraints of a startup and for smaller companies, the new concept of Flexi GC or Virtual GC turns out to be an asset. The concept of virtual professionals have been existing in the corporate world, since several years in the form of virtual chief financial officers and virtual chief executive officers, CXOs for startups and smaller, mid size  private companies who have budget constrains. These professionals have proved to be an important asset with minimal cost because they were outsourced. VGC is a similar concept where a general counsel who is part of team or is outsourced as a virtual professional for legal advice and insights. There are several reasons why companies are opting and going to opt in near future for Virtual GCs. One of the biggest reasons being that they don't need to employ a counsel as a full time employee as it comes with a lot of financial responsibilities such as, lawyer recruitment fees, salary, executive benefits, support staff, allocated office space, office furniture, equipment, law library and electronic legal research costs, annual insurance fees, and costs of ongoing legal education courses etc. When a counsel is outsourced most of the aforesaid overhead costs can be eliminated and at the same time the company looking for a counsel has a wider variety of counsels to outsource depending on the subject matter. Companies around the world hire VCGs independently or through law firms that provide these services. They are completely aware with the company's position and business aspects by constantly being the contact person for legal advice and work accordingly.

Changing Times

Today the job of top-level management and professional has also shifted to several virtual platforms which has provided companies incentive with regards to reduced infrastructural costs and easier management for supervision over the work. The pandemic and the lockdown induced by it forced every person to work from home and cultivate a culture where virtual screens can turn into our office spaces. In such a scenario, the services of general counsel is increasingly used by corporates. For startups and mid size companies to avail these essential services, a VGC is viable service solution that provides the legal professional services at minimal cost due to virtual presence as against full time employee. This has in turn become a blessing in disguise for the businesses which will help them in reducing the legal risks from a future point of view, by engaging VGC and using them at optimal.

Use of Technology curtailing Geography barriers

With the development in technology and trade, geographical borders have been minimised as the world becomes more globalised. This has had a ripple effect on the legal industry as well. Through technology, companies can now choose to have a central location for their legal department with the ability to serve globally, where permitted by license and/or legal regulation. Furthermore, with COVID-19 causing a major shift in the work culture around the globe, our devices now act as our offices which enables an individual to disseminate his/her services without being barred by geographical factors.

Unfortunately, with COVID- 19 causing a huge economic slowdown, many companies had to lay off employees who were dispensable to their functions, counsels being one of them. However, the need for a counsel had been felt, which is when outsourcing became a very convenient as well as cost friendly concept. Thus, there has been a shift to minimal cost providers for legal process outsourcing, as well as the strategic use of outside counsel/law firms for more specialized legal matters and advice.

Way Ahead

The concept of VGC is a fairly new idea that is turning out to be an asset protecting the companies and startups from litigation, legal risks and means that might cost fortune. With times, more Companies will explore these options which comes with its own advantages as aforesaid.

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