Could your practice benefit from working with a freelance lawyer? Consider the following: Do you currently have more work than you can handle or want to handle? Do you have deadlines (briefs, motions, trial dates, depositions and the like) that you are unable to meet without undue stress, working long hours or other hardship? Would collaborating with a seasoned civil litigator on a case or project ease your stress and make your practice more manageable? Do you need someone to make sure other work and deadlines are being met while you are at trial? Could you benefit from the services of an experienced attorney who can assist in working your cases during a busy period or leave of absence without having to hire a permanent associate? Is overworking having an unhealthy effect on your outside life and emotional well-being? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you could likely benefit from retaining a freelance lawyer. Freelance lawyers such as myself are hired on an as-needed, contract basis. You pay for only the time spent working on your assignment. As the hiring attorney-employer you benefit from my 25 years of litigation experience. Unlike permanent hires, you do not need to bear the burden of paying employment taxes, health insurance premiums, 401k administration fees, paid vacation time, overhead and expenses that accompany hiring a permanent employee. As the American Bar Association has observed, Outsourcing affords lawyers the ability to reduce their costs and often the cost to the client… In addition, the availability of lawyers… to perform discrete tasks may… allow for the provision of labor-intensive legal services by lawyers who do not otherwise maintain the needed human resources on an ongoing basis. A small firm might not regularly employ the lawyers and legal assistants required to handle a large, discovery-intensive litigation effectively. Outsourcing, however, can enable that firm to represent a client in such a matter effectively and efficiently, by engaging additional lawyers to conduct depositions or to review and analyze documents. See American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility Formal Opinion 08-451. In The Lawyerist, author Kendra Brodin identified six key benefits to outsourcing legal work. Better service to your clients. You will be able to spend more time on the issues you choose, while handing off other tasks to someone else. Your clients won’t notice the difference because the transfer of work should be seamless, and the result should be as good as what you would have delivered. More money in your pockets. If you’ve had to turn down new clients or cases because you have too much on your plate, you are turning down profit potential. Or if you’ve agreed to take a case at a flat fee and the case is going to take more hours than you originally estimated, your hourly rate will effectively go down. Hiring someone on an “as needed” basis will allow you to get your work done at a reasonable cost, and accept new work that you want to handle. Less stress. Think of the long hours, looming deadlines, uncooperative opposing counsel, difficult clients, and missed family time. If that raises your blood pressure, outsourcing may be the relief you need. More flexibility in your schedule. Sometimes scheduling conflicts are inevitable. If there is no one available to step in and help you, and/or it doesn’t make sense to hire another associate or other staff, a contract attorney is the way to go. Reduced risk of a malpractice claim. When you have too much on your plate, something could easily fall through the cracks or get less attention than it requires. Many bar complaints arise out of missing deadlines, so instead of trying to find time to work on a case, find someone you can depend on to keep you on track. Career satisfaction. Have you ever felt like giving up your practice because the work is overwhelming, boring and routine, or taking too much time from the things that are most important to you? Hiring someone to take the work that is time-consuming or that you don’t enjoy doing can rejuvenate your passion for your career. Some lawyers have a difficult time asking for help. But outsourcing isn’t a sign of weakness. Rather, it is adding strength to your practice. It is a way to be flexible with your staffing needs, and is a low-risk, low-cost way to handle your work. Give it a try the next time you’re scratching your head, wondering how it’s all going to get done. There are additional compelling reasons for busy attorneys to outsource portions of their litigation workload to a freelance lawyer. These include the following:
- The cost of retaining a freelance attorney can be passed along to the attorney’s client as a cost of litigation. Indeed, as noted in Opinion 00-420 from the American Bar Association, attorneys that use freelance lawyers can ethically add a surcharge to the fee paid to the freelance lawyer when billing the client for legal service as long as the total sum charged is reasonable.
- Outsourcing litigation tasks to a freelance lawyer can drastically reduce stress and anxiety by reducing the workload of the referring attorney. This in turn improves job satisfaction and general well-being.
- Attorneys frequently have onerous workloads and inevitable scheduling conflicts. The use of a freelance attorney can provide a solution to these challenges without having to hire additional lawyers, paralegals or other legal staff.
- When lawyers are pushed to the limit with backbreaking workloads, the quality of the attorney’s work frequently suffers. In worst case scenarios deadlines can be missed leading to bar complaints or malpractice suits. Retaining a freelance lawyer to shoulder some of these burdens can help to avoid such pitfalls.
- Hiring a freelance lawyer to assist with litigation tasks can dramatically increase the hiring attorney’s job satisfaction by reducing stress and avoiding burnout.
- To ensure that work gets done in a timely and professional manner, attorneys frequently consider hiring an associate to perform the work. This is truly a huge step to take, given the costs of associate compensation, benefits, payroll taxes, and other expenses. If the workload hits a lull, what lawyer wants to confront the newly hired associate and inform him that he is no longer needed and that his position is being eliminated? Retaining an experienced freelance attorney allows you to receive assistance on an as-needed basis at a reasonable, one-time cost. No payroll taxes, salary, benefits, additional overhead, headhunter fees or other expenses are necessary.
- As one commentator has observed, some tasks – such as trials, client meetings and rainmaking – demand your personal attention; others, such as legal research and writing, do not. Outsourcing enables you to weather particularly busy periods without having to hire an employee or face time pressures that lead to lawyer stress and burnout. Another benefit of outsourcing legal research and writing on an as-needed basis is cost. Hiring an associate requires a significant investment in both time and money. When you outsource legal research and writing projects, you pay only for the time it takes to complete the project, but when you hire an employee, you immediately add to your fixed expenses. Outsourcing is a wise use of your firm’s resources that can increase profitability. Taken from Effectively Staffing Your Law Firm, Jennifer J. Rose, Ed., ABA (2009).
- In these and so many other ways, hiring an experienced freelance lawyer like Mark McGrath makes sound economic, professional and personal sense.