When it comes to law firms, there are two main types: those who have a remote lawyer working for them, and those who don’t. If you’re in the first group, congratulations! You’re making a smart decision by leveraging the power of remote work. If you’re in the second group, well, you’re missing out.
If you’re like many law firm owners, you not have the consistent workload or resources to hire a full-time associate. As we’ve already explored in previous blog posts, the true cost to hire a full-time in-office associate attorney for your firm under the traditional hiring model is expensive. In fact, the expense can be so daunting that many law firm owners put off hiring – often to their own detriment.
That’s where freelance lawyers come in! A freelance lawyer is an attorney who works remotely, providing legal services to other attorneys/law firms on a contract basis. Outsourcing substantive legal work to a freelance lawyer or remote associate can be a great option for firms that need extra help but don’t want to commit to hiring a full-time lawyer.
In this blog post, we will give you 10 best practice tips for successfully working with a freelance lawyer via LAWCLERK’s Hourly Associate program!
1 – Start Now
First things first, you need to find the right Hourly Associate for your firm’s needs. Do you need a 1-3 year junior associate to help with research and discovery? Do you need a 10+ year senior attorney to help with overflow work related to complex deals or trial preparation?
The good news is that with our Hourly Associate program you can connect with thousands of talented freelance lawyers with every imaginable level of experience and expertise. You will start your search for your ideal Hourly Associate via your LAWCLERK Dashboard. It can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to find the best match.
Young associates fresh out of law school can be very helpful to growing law firms. The skill set of these young lawyers can be utilized to tackle time consuming work like research, discovery and drafting so that the law firm partner’s time is freed up for non-billable work like business development and meeting with potential clients.
Senior associates understand the big picture of a life of a case. They bring the experience of their own legal career to add depth and expertise to the work product they will create for your clients.
You should start the process of finding your Hourly Associate now – before you have an urgent need to help. That way you won’t feel in a rush and you can move at your own pace through the process to find the best possible talent.
2 – Check Your List
Once you are matched with your Hourly Associate, you will want to start delegating work to them. One of the best ways to do this is to start a routine of at least once a week reviewing your own To-Do list and identifying any work you can pass to the Hourly Associate.
What kind of work can an Hourly Associate do? That’s a great question. Through Hourly Associate, our freelance lawyers can help busy attorneys with on-going written work irrespective of whether it is litigation or transactional. When reviewing your To-Do list look for any work that will require big blocks of focus time to complete. Work such as research, discovery, drafting pleadings, correspondence, agreements or even marketing materials should be delegated to your Hourly Associate.
Hourly Associate is the perfect solution when you need help that is more than a single project. Work via the Hourly Associate program should be ongoing work that can fluctuate and be challenging to predict, hence working on an hourly basis is the best solution.
Keep in mind that your Hourly Associate will produce billable hours. You can bill their work to your clients at a reasonable market rate. Shifting work to an Hourly Associate will give you more time for professional development, marketing, cultivating client relationships and even improved work-life balance.
3 – Point Person
Our third best practice is to delegate someone else at your office who can be an alternate point of contact if you are not available to assist your Hourly Associate. For example, let’s say you are in a two-week trial or better yet out of the country on a two week vacation. You want to make sure there is someone else in your office the new associate can go to when they have questions or need information.
The alternate point person within your in-office team could be another attorney, but it doesn’t have to be. It could also be your legal assistant or paralegal. This person should be a good communicator, responsive, and helpful to provide documents or information to keep the Hourly Associate’s work process flowing. This is a helpful strategy to make sure that there aren’t log-jams in the Hourly Associate’s work during times when you aren’t directly available.
4 – Regular Meetings
A productivity best practice for success with your Hourly Associate is to set a regular meeting. This can be like a status meeting or a case work meeting. It could be once a week, once a month, twice a month or however best works for you. The meeting would be virtual – either by videoconference or a good old fashioned phone call.
During this meeting with your Hourly Associate, you will review the status of work in progress, feedback on completed work and discuss upcoming work. This meeting should be quick – usually ten or 15 minutes. It could perhaps be longer if you have a complex case with a great deal of work coming up.
Some weeks the meeting may be very quick to just let the Hourly associate know you don’t currently have work to assign but you anticipate sending them more week in a few days or weeks. One of the greatest benefits of our Hourly Associate program is that it is 100% flexible with you as your case load ebbs and flows.
5 – Provide Templates
Many attorneys ask us if they should provide templates to the freelance lawyer they are working with. The answer is YES! Whether you are working with a freelance lawyer for a single project, via a subscription or as an Hourly Associate you should always provide a template or form if you have one.
For example, if you are having the Hourly Associate revise a commercial lease agreement and you have a similar lease agreement from an earlier deal you should give them the form. You should also give them a checklist of the key terms that need to be included in the revised agreement.
Efficiency is especially key when working via an Hourly Associate whom you are paying for work by the hour. It is to your advantage and to the freelancers that you provide a template to enable them to do their best work as efficiently as possible.
6 – Don’t Rush
As much as possible, try to avoid assigning any work on a rush turnaround (less than 24 hours). Now obviously we know that in the practice of law emergencies come up and there will be times you urgently need help. Maybe a judge orders you to produce a memorandum of points and authorities by noon the next day. You might need help with some research and drafting the memorandum asap. This is another good reason why you want to have your Hourly Associate selected and ready to help you.
But for the occasional emergency, do your best to avoid giving fast deadlines for work you assign to your Hourly Associate. One way to avoid this is to get in the habit of delegating work to your Hourly Associate the same day that you get it. For example, let’s say you get a contentious motion from opposing counsel. You need to write an objection on behalf of your client and get it filed within ten days. The best time to pass this work to your hourly associate is that same day so they have the maximum amount of time to do their very best work.
7 – Different Practice Areas
One of the most powerful things about working with an Hourly Associate is that you can have an ongoing working relationship with more than one Hourly Associate. This can be especially useful if your law firm has more than one primary practice area.
For example, perhaps your growing law firm provides services for clients both in the area of family law and also for immigration. You know you need to hire an associate but you can’t find the right associate with experience in both practice areas. A smart solution to this problem would be to find two Hourly Associates via LAWCLERK. One could focus on helping you with overflow work for your family law practice and another could work solely on immigration cases. This is a great way to get specialized expertise.
Another instance where adding a second (or third) Hourly Associate would make a lot of sense would be if your law firm is expanding by offering a new practice area to your clientele. Let’s continue our example above with a law firm that offers both family law and immigration services. If the law firm begins to offer estate planning it might make sense to leverage another hourly associate to focus on helping with work in this specialized field.
8 – Communication is Key
No matter if you have one, two, three or more Hourly Associates one thing is for sure: communication is key to success.
As an attorney in a busy law firm, it is essential to have clear and frequent communication with anyone you work with, especially if they are a remote associate. Not only is communication important to ensure that tasks are being completed on time and correctly, but without it attorneys could end up devoting large amounts of time and energy trying to fix errors which would not have occurred if they had just taken the few extra minutes to talk things through ahead of time. The attorney and Hourly Associate working relationship requires frequent and effective two-way communication to guarantee the best possible outcome for the client.
Clear and effective communication with your law firm colleagues can ensure swift and seamless collaboration between the office and remote associates. Defining a well-organized system for communication that allows quick responses from all parties involved can help to create a focused team environment where work gets done efficiently. Establish your preferred method of communication for questions (email, phone, Slack channel). As previously mentioned, setting a regular meeting schedule can also provide a set time for open and efficient communication.
If you want to succeed with your Hourly Associate then communicate, communicate, communicate!
9 – Post Projects
Keep in mind that LAWCLERK’s Hourly Associate program is just one way to get legal outsourcing help. Another smart way to get help is by posting a Project.
What is a Project on LAWCLERK? A Project is a single piece of work that you need help with. It could be a research memo on an unusual legal issue. It could be a demand letter. It could be a consulting services agreement. It could be a motion or appellate brief.
When you post a Project on the LAWCLERK marketplace, you set a flat fee price for the Project and that is all you pay. There is no fee to join LAWCLERK and no monthly fees. You only pay when you are getting work done.
Even after you are matched with an Hourly Associate to help your firm on an on-going basis, there may be times where it still makes sense to post a one-off Project on LAWCLERK. Perhaps you run an intellectual property practice and you have an Hourly Associate to help with overflow IP work. Perhaps one of your IP clients comes to you and needs a lease agreement for a new rental property they purchased. This would be a great time to log into LAWCLERK and post a Project to have a different freelance attorney with real estate experience draft that lease.
10 – Move to Subscription
What if you need even more help beyond a Project or an Hourly Associate? No sweat – we’ve got you covered with LAWCLERK’s Remote Associate Subscription Program.
Once you’ve been working with your Hourly Associate for awhile keep in mind that you can always transition to a Subscription based working relationship. How does subscription work? In a nutshell, a Subscription is best suited for law firms who have a steady amount of overflow work they want to give to a remote associate. The program starts at 30 hours per month.
What about if you need a freelance attorney to do more than write documents? What if you need help covering court hearings or taking depositions?
At this time, LAWCLERK’s terms of service do not allow Hourly Associates to do work like take depositions or attend court on your behalf. If you need a Remote Associate to more fully integrate into your firm and handle client communications, depositions, or court appearances, check out our Subscription program which does allow for full attorney services.
LAWCLERK Can Help
At LAWCLERK, our team is committed to helping provide a variety of hiring solutions to help lawyers get more work done. Hourly Associate is our latest offering and currently the best choice for “pay as you go” legal outsourcing help.
Not sure which option is best for you? Should you post a Project? Should you hire outsourced help on an hourly or subscription basis?
If you have any questions or need some help, connect with your Dedicated LAWCLERK Advisor. If you aren’t sure who your advisor is or if you haven’t yet registered for an account with LAWCLERK, then feel free to reach out to us by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (888) 479-5728.
As always, if you have any questions specific to your practice, we want you to know that the LAWCLERK team is here for you! If you haven’t yet registered for your own account with LAWCLERK, we invite you to book a demo session or check out our Attorney Resources page to learn more!