For small and medium-sized companies without in-house counsel, developing an ongoing relationship with a trusted adviser that you can turn to for assistance and guidance on a myriad of legal issues is key to driving efficiencies and ensuring compliance, says Toronto corporate lawyer Kobi Bessin.

Although some companies may opt to use external counsel in limited situations to save on costs or try to deal with situations on their own, Bessin, a partner with Torkin Manes LLP, tells this is where problems can occur.

"Without proper legal advice, you may have missed something, and it's not so much from the perspective that you've read the contract, you can negotiate the contract, and you know what it says, but do you know what it ought to have said? Or do you know how you could have said it better so that there is no discrepancy, there's no vagueness, things of that nature?" he says.

As such, Bessin explains, it is preferable to build a relationship with a legal adviser, so that, the same way a business would reach out to a chief financial officer or head of sales on a matter, the lawyer becomes de facto in- house counsel to ensure the company is complying with laws and regulations. For example, the adviser can provide a second set of eyes on anything from a contract to a distribution agreement, employment agreement, real estate lease, or work with the company on other matters such as mergers and acquisitions, litigation or tax planning.

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