The concept seems odd, but would you advise any business your size to operate with self-advised guidance? In the business world have you ever known a business equivalent to yours to go without proper legal advice? Being around lawyers all these years, I know this is a tough sell to some, but you absolutely need to designate a firm lawyer to be your legal representative.
My firm went to a General Counsel concept in 1994, well before the trend to do so started in larger firms. Regardless of your size, you need to consider designating one of you to act in that role. The key to doing so would be treating firm matters just like you do client matters, thereby establishing an attorney-client relationship and privilege so you can discuss problems, fixes, and client protection matters. I routinely opened firm legal files and did all like any other client work, except for billing.
At a start-up level, your newly-designated firm lawyer can review conflicts, consult on ethics issues, handle your errors and omissions coverage, and provide confidential advice to your lawyers on the daily issues that arise in the practice. That role will expand as the firm adopts the culture of legal consultation before acting. It becomes a way of life in a law firm and gives the firm a set of eyes and ears intended to prevent claims.
The firm lawyer concept has greatly evolved in bigger firms. Some firms split the work among several people and others have actually created the Office of the General Counsel or a Chief Legal Officer. Of course, the utilization of a senior lawyer there is a cost, rather than a revenue, position. Many resist it because of that. I always explained as “negative revenue”. My job was to keep post-tax firm income from sliding off the table and down the proverbial drain by preventing claims and issues. The loss of the policy deductible and the loss of the productive time of lawyers and staff cost way more than the income I would have otherwise generated with those hours. It is a reverse concept, but a sound one. You need to have a claim to understand how much you actually lose out of your earned income. In the not measurable world of loss prevention, having no claims was tantamount to having a good revenue year. Analyze an ethics charge or a legal malpractice claim in your office and you will see what I mean.
Much like the businesses of our clients, law firms are forced to manage their professional services in a business-like manner. The firm lawyer needs to assist in managing the client intake for quality control and for conflicts avoidance. The lawyer for the firm has to address business wide risks to help the “client” law firm avoid them. Tasks include conflicts, client guidelines, fees and billing, staff regulations, ethics, data breaches, and the myriad issues arising daily in the business of law. Anthony Davis of Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP pointed out in a May 2017 article that the role of a General Counsel in a big firm has expanded into areas not thought of just a few years ago.
See my 2012 article at https://goo.gl/DVREX.m for other thoughts on this firm need. Give the concept some discussion time in your office. Even though a professional services firm, think like a business and protect yourself. Designate a lawyer. You would tell every one of your clients they needed one.