All posts by Cadence Counsel

Cadence Corner: Working With Flexible Or Interim Counsel

What can a general counsel or other in-house lawyer do in order to work most successfully with flexible counsel aka contract attorneys?

Welcome to the latest installment of Cadence Corner. In this occasional series of informal conversations, I speak with Monique Burt Williams — CEO of Cadence Counsel, the in-house division of the Lateral Link consortium of legal recruitment firms — about timely topics in the world of legal hiring and recruiting. Today’s topic: working with flexible, interim, or ad hoc counsel — also known as “contract attorneys,” but as Monique discusses in our conversation, there has been a rebranding in the space. The rebranding reflects the impressive credentials and experience frequently possessed by interim counsel, many of whom graduated from top law schools and practiced at leading law firms or in-house legal departments before opting for more flexible work arrangements. At Cadence Counsel, Monique connects in-house legal departments with flexible counsel — and she has been very busy these days. During a challenging time for many companies, when many corporate counsels are forced to do more with less, turning to interim counsel has proved to be a superb solution for many. What can a general counsel or other in-house lawyer do in order to work most successfully with flexible counsel aka contract attorneys? Check out these excellent tips from Monique Burt Williams, CEO of Cadence Counsel, in the latest edition of Cadence Corner:

Cadence Corner with Monique & David

Monique Burt Williams, CEO of Cadence Counsel, speaks with David Lat about what to look for in a chief diversity officer (CDO) and best practices for ensuring the CDO’s effectiveness once hired.

Welcome to Cadence Corner. In this occasional series of informal conversations, I will interview Monique Burt Williams — CEO of Cadence Counsel, the in-house division of the Lateral Link consortium of legal recruitment firms — about timely topics in the world of legal hiring and recruiting.

Episode 1:

Episode 2:

Cadence Counsel Presents: A Series on Change Management

What do lawyers, especially in-house counsel, need to know about change management in these rapidly changing times?

If you’ve been feeling stressed out, anxious, or depressed over these past few months, you are not alone. When the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), a leading organization for in-house lawyers, surveyed its members in June, it found that almost 20 percent are experiencing depression, more than 40 percent suffer anxiety, and almost 75 percent have moderate to severe burnout.

It’s not hard to understand why, given that our nation is suffering through a pandemic and a recession at the same time. Our country, our economy, and our legal profession are going through a huge amount of turmoil and change — much of the change bad, but not all of it — and dealing with change is difficult, even during good times.

If you are a lawyer looking for guidance and support as you help your organization navigate all this change, consider looking to the principles of change management. For those of you who are not familiar with it, change management consists of “the process, tools, and techniques used to manage the human side of change for the achievement and sustainment of a desired business outcome.” Change management has revolutionized the business world — and it’s now being adopted in the legal world as well.

Part 1: Change Management for In-House Counsel

Part 2: Change Management & Corporate Culture

Part 3: Change Management & Technology

The Weight Of Blackness

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Monique Burt Williams is the CEO of Cadence Counsel, where she helps corporations and other organizations diversify their in-house legal divisions as they strive to reflect a global economy.

I was five years old when I first felt the weight of being black in this country.

I was at day care, playing happily with a group of children at a water table. If I close my eyes, I can still hear our screeches as we gleefully plunked toys into the pool. At some point, I mistakenly dropped a toy tugboat onto the ground. A boy glared at me, snatched up the tugboat, hurled it angrily back into the water and yelled, “You’re black!”

There was a venom in his tone that was foreign to me, and I stood there frozen, not quite understanding what his words or this interaction really meant. All that registered in that moment was the negativity that dripped from his accusatory description of me. I could tell that everyone else was contemplating a similar thought because they had all stopped playing to look at me, waiting for my reaction.

Another little girl jumped to my defense and screamed, “No, she’s not black! That’s probably just dirt. We can wash it off.” She proceeded to pat tiny handfuls of water onto my face in her innocent attempt to smear that troublesome melanin away from my skin. Her efforts were futile, and disappointment washed over the group. I remember exactly how it felt when I blinked and hot tears rushed down my cheeks and into the cool droplets of water from the girl’s failed science experiment.

The group’s silent, collective stare made me somehow feel responsible for the moment and therefore obligated to fix it. I felt like it was my responsibility to lighten the mood, or offer up some sort of excuse, or distraction, or smile, or explanation, or apology for my blackness, having interrupted and dispelled the lightness of the occasion.

Finally, mercifully, a teacher walked over to inform us that it was time for lunch, and everyone just dispersed. That was it. The moment had passed. The teacher never saw or acknowledged my tears, and everyone simply went on with their day.

Those same children would go on to play with me year after year, but I carried a soul-soaked heaviness from that day that would rear its familiar head, in some way or another, for the rest of my life. It was the first time that I had experienced the burden of “otherness” – a panicked, gloomy pit in my stomach, like the feeling you get when the phone rings in the middle of the night or that nauseating tug at your insides as you prepare to attend a funeral.

Another funeral.

After days of protests and riots following the senseless death of George Floyd, the nation has witnessed yet another funeral for an unarmed black man who was murdered at the hands of law enforcement officials. Once again, racism has wreaked utter and complete havoc on our already taxed emotional and societal sensibilities, forcing some of us into the recesses of our minds and others onto the pandemic-ridden streets of our cities in search of an answer to that singularly unifying question: what, if anything, can be done in the wake of this chaotic pattern of destruction?

If I close my eyes, I can call up that scene from when I was five years old. I exchange the water table for a conference room. I swap out the kids for co-workers. I turn the toys into projects, and I replace the burden of “otherness” with the opportunity to effectuate real change.

When someone’s differences are called out and used against them if they happen to drop the ball, the aggressor must be pulled aside and addressed accordingly. When someone genuinely tries to defend and stand with the oppressed, but fails to do or say the perfect thing at exactly the right moment, they should be quietly counseled as to what might be more helpful in the future, not openly criticized and alienated. When someone takes on the unwarranted responsibility of smiling through the struggle, discreetly offer them a tissue and the time they need in order to recharge.

The perception of “other” begins with those in positions of power. Those in positions of power are overwhelmingly the owners of privilege. And when the owners of privilege fail to use that power toward meaningful change, they waste an opportunity to increase the widespread perception of the value of others. That is what we are missing: respect for the value of “otherness.”

That is why it is so universally dangerous to neglect the prioritization of a diverse workforce by resting in the comfort of working with homogenous teams. It perpetuates the idea that if you are “other,” you are of lesser value. It matters who you hire. It matters that your leadership teams reflect the customers that you serve. It matters what messages you send to your employees and to their families and to the world about your values and the ways in which you value their lives.

I stand with those CEOs who have committed to reinforce their diversity and inclusion efforts. I stand with the families of those who have lost their lives to senseless acts of hatred and bigotry. I stand with those who seek equality for all. And I stand with every five-year-old at every water table who has ever felt the weight of being black in this country. We will do better by you. We will.

Why In-House Legal Departments Should Use More Contract Attorneys

Corporations will do well to strategically utilize the first-tier contract attorneys increasingly at their disposal.

Highly skilled attorneys trained by the most distinguished law firms are increasingly looking to shift their skill set into the gig economy, guided by a desire for the flexibility and control that was lacking during their intense years of law firm training and which is very visibly cropping up for nearly all other professionals. Roughly 36% of the American workforce is participating in the gig economy and it is now predicted that, within the next decade, this will increase to 50%. Indeed, nearly half of the highest paying freelance jobs are legal jobs.

There are a growing number of lawyers who graduated from top law schools, held prestigious clerkships, spent several years at elite law firms, and are fully capable of handling high-end substantive legal work—including drafting and negotiating commercial contracts, joining deal teams, joining trial or investigation teams, and advising on regulatory compliance matters—but have chosen to not pursue a permanent salaried job, perhaps for family or health reasons, or a desire for a better work-life balance. These are the same attorneys who were once billed out at up to $800 per hour as big law firm associates—now, as these elite lawyers are increasingly contract attorneys, legal departments can access the skill and expertise of these former big law firm associates for approximately $175-$375 per hour (depending on the level of experience required for the task). Some of these contract attorneys have already spent time in a permanent in-house role, even including at the GC level. In this evolving job marketplace, it might be that the best candidate to meet a legal department’s need is not looking for a permanent job, and is available only on a contract basis.

There are many good reasons for corporate legal departments to embrace this shift and consider the benefits of hiring highly skilled contract attorneys to meet varying legal needs, whether it be on a short-term basis, a project-basis, or a long-term/indefinite basis.

1) Converting Fixed to Variable Costs: Engaging contract attorneys is one way of converting fixed costs to variable, a key managerial economics concept that has seen widespread corporate adoption in recent years. Because labor is often the biggest line item on the P&L, a variable workforce is a fundamental component of this shift. Companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500s employ this model with great success, and the availability of highly skilled elite contract attorneys means companies do not have sacrifice high quality legal counsel as they execute this model. We previously addressed the profitability of variable staffing at law firms, and in-house legal departments can reap similar benefits, particularly in lowering overhead costs of the legal department by avoiding unnecessary permanent legal hires when a contract legal hire will suit the need.


Corporations often feel a pull between adding “headcount” (or obtaining budget approval to hire) on the one hand, and the cost of outside counsel on the other. Elite contract attorneys bridge this gap because of their efficient rates, variable compensation, and easy scalability—while also providing GCs concrete data about whether there is indeed enough work to justify a permanent in-house hire

2) Enhancing Agility with On Demand Legal Services:  Corporate legal departments grow as the company and its legal demands expand. Unlike at law firms, where increased work means increased profits, legal is considered a cost center for corporate budgeting. It is critical, then, for legal departments to react nimbly to changes—whether large or small—such as shifting market conditions, seasonal needs (e.g., proxy season), new regulatory and compliance issues, or the advancement of new products or services requiring counsel with a particular skill set. Highly skilled contract attorneys provide a variable resource with no long-term commitment or overhead, deployed or recalled on demand by an agency (i.e., a vendor), which often does not require a company to complete its own lengthy hiring process.


A good time for a company to bring in elite contract attorneys is during the start-up period. Bringing in a highly skilled contract attorney, perhaps on a part-time or interim basis, is a cost-effective way for a start-up company to have access to the services of a GC-level counsel before it is ready to make its first full-time permanent legal hire.

Likewise, for more developed companies, a good time to bring in elite contract attorneys is during an expansion, which creates atypical workloads for law departments that are not indicative of post-growth needs. Acquisitions, for example, often raise one-time legal issues (e.g., regulatory compliance and integration issues) that don’t necessarily justify a permanent hire. Instead of investing resources in costly permanent hires, contract attorneys parachute in for the transition, and allow corporations to gauge the long-term workload without over- or under-committing.

3) Allowing In-House Resources to Focus on Core Tasks:  One of the job features that in-house lawyers typically enjoy is the variety of issues they tackle. Expanding legal expertise beyond the more siloed and specialized practice areas typical of law firms can be professionally fulfilling. The appeal of this variety (and the value to the company) tends to plummet, however, when senior attorneys are diverted to non-core legal tasks—work that must get done, isn’t substantial enough to require a new permanent attorney, and doesn’t justify incurring outside counsel rates. Calling in a skilled attorney to handle these matters on a variable basis reallocates in-house legal talent to its most productive uses.

A good time to bring in elite contract attorneys is for the update of standard legal disclosures, which may require the analysis of an area of the law, e.g., consumer protection laws, in all 50 states; for conducting a risk assessment to identify operational, legal, and compliance risks and propose mitigations (perhaps in the absence of an internal audit department); or, for updating form contracts or other company materials to conform with new policies and procedures.

4) Enabling Smaller Law Firms to Take on Large Matters: Many GCs and their teams are deeply committed to promoting diversity in the legal profession, both within their own departments and through the money they spend on outside counsel. In January 2019, the Chief Legal Officer of car-sharing company Turo—along with 170 GCs signing on to this message—sent an open letter to big law firms to say they will prioritize legal spend on firms that commit to diversity and inclusion; the letter expressed disappointment that the partners promoted at many of these firms are still “largely male and largely white” and “in no way reflect the demographic composition of entering associate classes.” By May 2019, an additional 60 GCs signed on to this letter and the initial author released a set of actionable items for GCs looking to execute the letter’s commitment, including the direct hire of diverse outside counsel and support for minority- and women-owned law firms.

While many GCs have close relationships with women- and minority-owned law firms to which they would like to send large matters, those firms may not yet have the capacity to take on larger engagements—a problem GCs can suggest these law firms solve with the hiring of elite contract attorneys for the pendency of the matter.

5) Filling Discrete Temporary Needs:  Corporate legal departments would benefit from hiring elite contract attorneys to fill temporary needs, for example when a member of the legal department goes on parental/medical/caregiver leave, or on an interim basis during the pendency of a search for a replacement GC or other departing member of the legal department. Expecting the legal department to cover these temporary needs without additional resources can lead to burn-out, reduced productivity, and errors. Elite contract attorneys are an excellent way to supplement the legal department for a short-term need.

Another good time to bring in elite contract attorneys is for the duration of a lawsuit or investigation—events that are out of the ordinary but can create a prolonged flurry of activity for a corporate legal department, detracting from the legal department’s ability to manage normal responsibilities. Bringing in one or more elite contract attorneys to assist the company’s outside counsel reduces both the actual expense of the litigation or investigation, as well as the secondary expense of reduced in-house productivity.

Contract attorneys are not a substitute for having a well-staffed legal department under the leadership of a GC, but as workflows fluctuate and required expertise varies, corporations will do well to strategically utilize the growing number of elite contract attorneys now at their disposal. If you are looking for information on hiring contract attorneys for your legal department, please reach out to .

Why In-House Legal Departments Should Use More Contract Attorneys

Highly skilled attorneys trained by the most distinguished law firms are increasingly looking to shift their skill set into the gig economy, guided by a desire for the flexibility and control that was lacking during their intense years of law firm training and which is very visibly cropping up for nearly all other professionals. Roughly 36% of the American workforce is participating in the gig economy and it is now predicted that, within the next decade, this will increase to 50%. Indeed, nearly half of the highest paying freelance jobs are legal jobs.

There are a growing number of lawyers who graduated from top law schools, held prestigious clerkships, spent several years at elite law firms, and are fully capable of handling high-end substantive legal work—including drafting and negotiating commercial contracts, joining deal teams, joining trial or investigation teams, and advising on regulatory compliance matters—but have chosen to not pursue a permanent salaried job, perhaps for family or health reasons, or a desire for a better work-life balance. These are the same attorneys who were once billed out at up to $800 per hour as big law firm associates—now, as these elite lawyers are increasingly contract attorneys, legal departments can access the skill and expertise of these former big law firm associates for approximately $175-$375 per hour (depending on the level of experience required for the task). Some of these contract attorneys have already spent time in a permanent in-house role, even including at the GC level. In this evolving job marketplace, it might be that the best candidate to meet a legal department’s need is not looking for a permanent job, and is available only on a contract basis.

There are many good reasons for corporate legal departments to embrace this shift and consider the benefits of hiring highly skilled contract attorneys to meet varying legal needs, whether it be on a short-term basis, a project-basis, or a long-term/indefinite basis.

1. Converting Fixed to Variable Costs: Engaging contract attorneys is one way of converting fixed costs to variable, a key managerial economics concept that has seen widespread corporate adoption in recent years. Because labor is often the biggest line item on the P&L, a variable workforce is a fundamental component of this shift. Companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500s employ this model with great success, and the availability of highly skilled elite contract attorneys means companies do not have sacrifice high quality legal counsel as they execute this model. We previously addressed the profitability of variable staffing at law firms, and in-house legal departments can reap similar benefits, particularly in lowering overhead costs of the legal department by avoiding unnecessary permanent legal hires when a contract legal hire will suit the need.

Corporations often feel a pull between adding “headcount” (or obtaining budget approval to hire) on the one hand, and the cost of outside counsel on the other. Elite contract attorneys bridge this gap because of their efficient rates, variable compensation, and easy scalability—while also providing GCs concrete data about whether there is indeed enough work to justify a permanent in-house hire

2. Enhancing Agility with On Demand Legal Services:  Corporate legal departments grow as the company and its legal demands expand. Unlike at law firms, where increased work means increased profits, legal is considered a cost center for corporate budgeting. It is critical, then, for legal departments to react nimbly to changes—whether large or small—such as shifting market conditions, seasonal needs (e.g., proxy season), new regulatory and compliance issues, or the advancement of new products or services requiring counsel with a particular skill set. Highly skilled contract attorneys provide a variable resource with no long-term commitment or overhead, deployed or recalled on demand by an agency (i.e., a vendor), which often does not require a company to complete its own lengthy hiring process.

A good time for a company to bring in elite contract attorneys is during the start-up period. Bringing in a highly skilled contract attorney, perhaps on a part-time or interim basis, is a cost-effective way for a start-up company to have access to the services of a GC-level counsel before it is ready to make its first full-time permanent legal hire.

Likewise, for more developed companies, a good time to bring in elite contract attorneys is during an expansion, which creates atypical workloads for law departments that are not indicative of post-growth needs. Acquisitions, for example, often raise one-time legal issues (e.g., regulatory compliance and integration issues) that don’t necessarily justify a permanent hire. Instead of investing resources in costly permanent hires, contract attorneys parachute in for the transition, and allow corporations to gauge the long-term workload without over- or under-committing.

3. Allowing In-House Resources to Focus on Core Tasks:  One of the job features that in-house lawyers typically enjoy is the variety of issues they tackle. Expanding legal expertise beyond the more siloed and specialized practice areas typical of law firms can be professionally fulfilling. The appeal of this variety (and the value to the company) tends to plummet, however, when senior attorneys are diverted to non-core legal tasks—work that must get done, isn’t substantial enough to require a new permanent attorney, and doesn’t justify incurring outside counsel rates. Calling in a skilled attorney to handle these matters on a variable basis reallocates in-house legal talent to its most productive uses.

A good time to bring in elite contract attorneys is for the update of standard legal disclosures, which may require the analysis of an area of the law, e.g., consumer protection laws, in all 50 states; for conducting a risk assessment to identify operational, legal, and compliance risks and propose mitigations (perhaps in the absence of an internal audit department); or, for updating form contracts or other company materials to conform with new policies and procedures.

4. Enabling Smaller Law Firms to Take on Large Matters: Many GCs and their teams are deeply committed to promoting diversity in the legal profession, both within their own departments and through the money they spend on outside counsel. In January 2019, the Chief Legal Officer of car-sharing company Turo—along with 170 GCs signing on to this message—sent an open letter to big law firms to say they will prioritize legal spend on firms that commit to diversity and inclusion; the letter expressed disappointment that the partners promoted at many of these firms are still “largely male and largely white” and “in no way reflect the demographic composition of entering associate classes.” By May 2019, an additional 60 GCs signed on to this letter and the initial author released a set of actionable items for GCs looking to execute the letter’s commitment, including the direct hire of diverse outside counsel and support for minority- and women-owned law firms.

While many GCs have close relationships with women- and minority-owned law firms to which they would like to send large matters, those firms may not yet have the capacity to take on larger engagements—a problem GCs can suggest these law firms solve with the hiring of elite contract attorneys for the pendency of the matter.

5. Filling Discrete Temporary Needs:  Corporate legal departments would benefit from hiring elite contract attorneys to fill temporary needs, for example when a member of the legal department goes on parental/medical/caregiver leave, or on an interim basis during the pendency of a search for a replacement GC or other departing member of the legal department. Expecting the legal department to cover these temporary needs without additional resources can lead to burn-out, reduced productivity, and errors. Elite contract attorneys are an excellent way to supplement the legal department for a short-term need.

Another good time to bring in elite contract attorneys is for the duration of a lawsuit or investigation—events that are out of the ordinary but can create a prolonged flurry of activity for a corporate legal department, detracting from the legal department’s ability to manage normal responsibilities. Bringing in one or more elite contract attorneys to assist the company’s outside counsel reduces both the actual expense of the litigation or investigation, as well as the secondary expense of reduced in-house productivity.

Contract attorneys are not a substitute for having a well-staffed legal department under the leadership of a GC, but as workflows fluctuate and required expertise varies, corporations will do well to strategically utilize the growing number of elite contract attorneys now at their disposal. If you are looking for information on hiring contract attorneys for your legal department, please reach out to me at .