Over the years, I’ve concluded that there is not a non-profit way to practice law. We in-house lawyers for non-profits do all the things other in-house counsel do. But, while they might have to deal with the Securities and Exchange Commission, we spend time with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). And our corporate cultures tend to be different because profit is not our motive. Otherwise, we have pretty much the same roles in our respective organizations.
But lately, I’ve been wondering whether our organizations think about us in the same way the for-profits think about their lawyers. Businesses tend to put a dollar value on everything, which means they won’t spend money on lawyers unless the expense aids the bottom line. If there is an in-house counsel, it is only because having one is less expensive than not. Outside counsel are brought in, or not, on the same basis. In other words, the lawyers are paid for because they are seen as necessary to the success of the business.