Mark Prebble, Managing In-House Legal Services: Providing High Value Support for Your Organisation (Thorogood 2009) at 5, writes that “My belief is that the minimum size for a viable legal department is two, one of whom may be a good support person with paralegal capabilities.” Prebble, who consults to legal departments, adds in the book that he has “met so many sole in-house lawyers who are at the end of their tether, that I strongly recommend that you get some assurance that you will be able to recruit a colleague within a year.”
They should wish. Legal “departments” of one lawyer are quite common, on the order of one out of five in the United States (See my post of Dec. 27, 2008: small departments with 7 references cited.). Usually, however, the CEO believes it is a stretch to bring a first lawyer in-house, full time, and it is not in the cards to quickly double the size of the department. The single lawyer might not even bear the title of general counsel. The new lawyer on the block stands a better chance of being authorized to spend more on counsel outside than to hire someone inside.
Solos fly that way for long periods of time and cope (See my post of Feb. 16, 2006: solos must particularly attend to how they use their time; Feb. 15, 2006: six ways being alone reduces management hassles; April 16, 2006: stress and the single GC; April 15, 2006: solo GC compared to Deputy GC on pressure; Feb. 11, 2007: one lawyer departments accounted for one-third of a survey; Dec. 17, 2006: ADVO and its lonely GC; and Feb. 14, 2009: mix of compensation elements for one-lawyer departments.).