Hiring your first in-house lawyer is often a big step and significant expense for a small company. However, hiring an in-house attorney can often reduce risk and lead to better business decisions because legal issues have been taken into account. Hiring an in-house attorney can also lead to cost savings -- either by reducing outside counsel fees or by avoiding litigation or other business disputes. In-house counsel also can be more effective than outside counsel because they have an opportunity to really learn the business and focus on advising a single client, whereas outside counsel typically has many clients and "parachutes" into a matter only when a problem has already arisen (whereas the in-house counsel may have been able to help the company avoid the problem in the first place).
Salaries are very dependent on the industry, the geographic location of the company and the experience level of the attorney. For example, if you are looking for an attorney with 10+ years experience, you likely will have to pay a salary of $150K+ in the Northeast. In the pharmaceutical industry, that salary would likely be $200K+. Certain specialties (e.g., patent/IP) will command a higher salary. Of course, you could probably pay $100K or even less for a junior lawyer without much experience, but i think that is a mistake for a small company with a single lawyer. There are a number of salary surveys on the internet that can help you determine the appropriate salary range in your region and industry.
Finally, i note that some attorneys (such as myself) have started to offer part-time GC services to start-ups and emerging growth companies for an affordable, fixed monthly retainer payment. In essence, the lawyer would be an independent contractor (i.e., not on payroll, no benefits) and receive a fixed "salary" to provide all required legal services for the company.
I hope my answer was helpful.
Peter recommends the following next steps:
- Determine qualifications required for position
- Determine appropriate salary range (either based on publicly available data or by consulting a legal recruiter).
- Post an advertisement for the position (e.g., with ACC)
- Screen resumes and interview top candidates
- Extend an offer to the best candidate