Traditionally, legal process outsourcing (LPO) is a luxury that many small and medium sized firms might assume is only for large law firms. Bigger firms have the resources to pay for more outside help, so LPO is an easy advantage for them.
However, that’s not always the case, and LPO doesn’t have to be a luxury. LAWCLERK — our freelance lawyer marketplace — makes outsourcing legal work available to firms of any size because of its pricing and flexibility.
In fact, LAWCLERK was built specifically with solo attorneys and small firms in mind.
In this post, we’ll cover the advantages of legal process outsourcing for law firms of any size, and share why using LAWCLERK ensures you get a quality work product.
Access to Expertise
Time Management Efficiency
Boosting Access to Justice
Note: At LAWCLERK, we help busy attorneys in all different practice areas connect with talented freelance lawyers on-demand for either Project-based work, or our subscription program (where you can collaborate with a virtual associate on a subscription basis for a set number of hours per month). Learn more and sign up here.
Hiring a full-time associate is a great way to get more work done and produce more billable hours. That is, if your firm is busy and the associate is 100% utilized.
But before they get to the point of being at max capacity (if ever), they’re expensive and can drastically reduce profitability for your business. You’re going to have to make payroll for that person every two weeks, whether your firm has enough work for them or not.
And beyond payroll, the fully loaded cost of hiring an attorney is incredibly high when you consider the myriad of benefits and the many other tools, equipment, and subscriptions they need to succeed in their role.
When you compare those costs to the small cost of hiring a freelance attorney, either for one-off projects or on a subscription basis, you can get help at a much more affordable price point without adding to your monthly overhead.
Note: We go in greater detail on the importance of controlling your overhead in our founding story: Why the Large Law Firm Business Model Is Dying and What We’re Doing Instead.
Law firms typically outsource time consuming tasks related to discovery, document review, and research.
And traditionally, if you were going to hire a full time associate to handle those tasks, you’d be looking to hire a junior associate who is one to three years out of law school.
While they are eager to work and may put their all into it, their lack of experience can end up taking on a lot of your time as you’re training and mentoring them to get their job done well.
Instead, when you compare the traditional hiring of an entry level associate with that of a freelance lawyer, you’re often able to find attorneys with many years of experience. They have handled their own cases. And they can draw on those experiences in doing work for you, without you having to spend hours of your own time giving them instruction, and training them on what they need to be doing.
When you collaborate with a seasoned freelance lawyer who has 10+ years of experience, the work product is going to be at a deeper level than if you chose to assign the same task to an entry level associate.
Now, some folks may think, “I’m not going to find a freelance lawyer with 10+ years of experience who wants to do the types of tasks I would traditionally associate with an entry-level associate fresh out of law school”.
But the reality is that there are thousands of highly talented and experienced lawyers across the country who are very intentionally choosing to do freelance work.
They may want to spend less time working and move into partial retirement, focus on their health, take care of a sick family member, or any number of reasons to maintain a freelance law career. Working full time at a law firm (or running one) simply doesn’t fit into their plan, and they’re more than happy to take time consuming legal tasks off your plate.
At LAWCLERK, we have a network of over 3,500 freelance attorneys, and all you have to do to access their time, talent, and expertise is post a Project on our marketplace.
On average, 12 candidates apply to each Project, and all the information you need to narrow down the best possible candidate is right at your fingertips. If you click on a freelancer’s profile, you’ll see their:
Ratings and reviews from other attorneys who’ve hired them through LAWCLERK in the past
While many attorneys view outsourcing as a cost, the reality is that it’s a profit center.
According to the ethics rules and opinions, you are allowed to charge the work done by a freelance lawyer to your client at a reasonable market rate.
For example, let’s say you post a Project to the LAWCLERK marketplace, and you set the price you’ll pay at $1,500.
After you hire a freelancer and they complete their work, they send you their timecard, and report that it took them 12 hours to complete the Project.
Based on a reasonable market rate of $200 per hour, you can charge your client $2,400 for that work.
And since you only have to pay the freelance lawyer $1,500 based on the predetermined rate for the Project, that’s a profit of $900 for your law firm — based on one Project alone.
Not only did hiring a freelancer create more profit for you, it also gained you 12 hours of work that you would have had to do yourself. That’s time that can be better spent strategizing on a case, marketing your business, or any of the many other more important tasks you’d like to spend your time doing.
When it comes to spending your time more efficiently, one of the most compelling reasons why law firms should turn to legal process outsourcing is effective time management.
If you're a solo attorney or you have a small firm, chances are that when you founded that firm and first opened your doors, you did every job under the roof. You answered the phones, you helped with marketing, you did client intake, you did research — and of course, you did the legal work.
But as time goes on and the firm evolves and grows, as the attorney at the firm, you simply don't have enough hours in the day to do all of those things yourself anymore. That's when you need to re-evaluate what the best use of your time is and start delegating everything that isn’t.
This is where most lawyers typically get to the point of saying, “I don't have time to spend hours and hours researching issues and writing memos. I don't have time to spend hours and hours managing discovery.”
Yes, as the managing attorney, you need to be the quarterback looking over all the work and supervising it. But you don't need to be the one in the trenches personally doing the hours and hours of work that go into legal research, discovery, or other similar tasks.
This is why legal process outsourcing can be such a great solution for an evolving and growing law firm. This way, you as the attorney can stay focused on only handling tasks that are the absolute best use of your time — because time is limited, and you have to maximize it to grow your business.
Another advantage to outsourcing you may not yet have considered is that it increases access to justice.
Thousands of potential clients every single year in the U.S. legal market have legal needs but don’t hire a lawyer. This can be for a multitude of reasons, but a common one is that they can’t afford legal representation, or they have the perception that they can’t afford it.
In fact, according to Clio’s 2020 Legal Trends Report, “78% of consumers say that lawyers should adopt pricing and/or payment models that will make legal services more affordable”.
By turning to freelance lawyers consistently and making it a part of your law firmstaffing strategy, you can lessen (or completely remove) the need to hire a traditional, full time associate.
As we touched on earlier, full-time associates are expensive. They have fixed overhead costs like salary, benefits, and so on. And you have to incur those costs regardless of how much work is coming into your firm. To add to that, the associate — especially if they’re fresh out of law school — wouldn’t deliver the same work product as a seasoned freelance attorney with over 10 years of experience.
Of course, avoiding the overhead costs of a full-time associate doesn’t mean you have to lower your prices. However, it does allow more room for discounts, which not only boosts access to justice, but also improves your firm’s hireability.
Note: At LAWCLERK, we help busy attorneys in all different practice areas connect with talented freelance lawyers on-demand for either Project-based work, or our subscription program (where you can collaborate with a top rated virtual associate on a subscription basis for a set number of hours per month). Learn more and sign up here.