Five Common Myths About Legal Outsourcing

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If you’ve ever considered outsourcing some of your legal work, certain beliefs may have held you back from moving forward with those plans. Chances are that those beliefs involve one or more of these five outsourcing myths and common misconceptions about legal outsourcing that we’ll explore in this article.

First off, what exactly is legal outsourcing?

Legal outsourcing is when a lawyer, law firm, or other entity hires an outside freelance lawyer, law firm, or legal services outsourcing company to perform services such as legal research, document review, motion and contract preparation, etc. Outsourcing can occur on an occasional per-project basis or pursuant to a long-term arrangement. Now that we’ve defined the term, let’s explore five common myths and misconceptions about legal outsourcing.

Myth #1: No One Else Can Do the Job as Well as I Can

Do you ever find yourself afraid to delegate or outsource a certain piece of work because you believe no one could write that brief or research that issue as well as you can? Are you terrified that if you hand off an assignment, you’ll only end up rewriting it? All of us in the legal industry fall victim to this type of thinking from time to time. We tell ourselves that we’re the best person to do the work and that there couldn’t possibly be anyone out there who could handle it as well as we can. So we just do all the work ourselves which can lead to overwork and burnout among other things.

The truth is that while you may be really, really good at doing certain types of work, there are thousands of freelance lawyers out there who are also really talented (if not even better).  At LAWCLERK, we’ve got thousands of freelancers who are, on average, 11.6 years out of law school.  These are experienced and seasoned attorneys with a wealth of knowledge and talents who are more than capable of doing great work.  Many of them have extensive years of experience and expertise in various areas of law and are great writers.

Thus, you can find a freelancer who will be able to do high-quality work for you and save you a ton of time.  The cost-effective strategy of leveraging the time and talent of a freelance lawyer is one of many benefits of outsourcing.

Myth #2: Delegating Takes Too Much Time

Do you ever find yourself thinking that delegating takes too much time? That by the time you explain everything to someone else that you could have finished the job yourself?

A lot of us have fallen prey to this misperception.  The truth is that tasks usually take longer to complete than we think they will, so it’s worth the time to write out some detailed instructions and delegate them.

For example, say you need to write a motion for summary judgment and decide to outsource the work. You spend 30 minutes typing an email or a summary memo giving instructions, providing case information, and gathering key documents for the freelance lawyer to review in connection with the assignment. You find a talented freelance lawyer on LAWCLERK to do the work and spend another 15 minutes discussing the assignment with them.

So far, you’ve spent 45 minutes on the project.

It may take the freelancer 8-10 hours to research and draft the motion whereas you might have been able to get it done in 8 hours.  Even if you spend an hour revising and polishing the motion before filing it with the court, you will have saved more than 6 hours by outsourcing the work.

You could use that free time to get other work done, to meet with potential new clients, or attend to other pressing business functions. You could use that time to prepare for trial in a different case or spend more time with friends and family or even to get a bit more sleep.

As you master the art of delegation, you will become more adept at establishing protocols for the work you outsource, knowing and explaining what you’re looking for, and selecting the right freelancers to do the work. Plus, as you find freelancers you like and develop a rapport with them, you can then favorite them and use the team feature in Lawclerk to select them again for future assignments.  Working with a select team of freelancers on a repeat basis will definitely be a timesaver when it comes to delegation done right.

Myth #3. My Clients Want Me to Do All of Their Work

Do you ever find yourself thinking that it wouldn’t be fair to the client to delegate their work? Do you believe that since the clients hired you that they expect for you to do all the work? A lot of attorneys fall into this trap.

The truth is that your clients don’t expect you to do all of the work on a matter – especially the time consuming work like research, document review and discovery.  In fact, depending upon your rates, many clients don’t want to pay for you to do all the work yourself.

While clients may expect for you to be the lead person on strategy, handling negotiations with the opposing party, overseeing the work of other team members, handling court appearances and settlement conferences, they don’t expect for you to do every little bit of time-consuming legal research, document review, and motion practice. They trust you to be the quarterback on their case – the point person leading the case and overseeing the work a team. That’s a more realistic way of how clients expect their lawyers to manage their cases.

Myth #4: I Can’t Expense the Freelancer’s Time Back to My Client

Some lawyers believe that they shouldn’t outsource legal work because they won’t make money on outsourcing. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The key ethics rule to keep in mind is ABA Model Rule 1.5, which says that an attorney can bill their client for work at a reasonable market rate. That includes the work of freelance lawyers. Also see ABA opinion 00-420.

Think about it. This is the exact same business model that larger law firms have used to make a lot of money over many years. They do this by leveraging the work of associates.  They hire an associate and pay them a salary which breaks down into a certain hourly rate. They then bill that associate’s work to the client at a higher billable rate – a reasonable market rate – making a nice bit of profit.

You can do this with legal outsourcing. For example, you find a freelance lawyer to prepare a motion for summary judgment and agree to pay them a flat fee of $1,000 for the assignment. The freelancer keeps track of their time to make sure that you’ve paid a fair flat fee for the project. After the freelancer completes the motion, they give it to you along with a timecard showing that they worked eight and a half hours on the project.

Based on your geographical location, your market, practice are, the amount of experience of the freelancer, and the complex nature of the work, you determine that the reasonable market rate to bill your client for this work is $350 per hour.  Thus, you’re going to bill the freelancer’s time to your client for a total of $2,975 (8.5 x $350).  Keep in mind that you paid $1,000 to the freelancer to get that work done. This means you’re looking at a profit of $1,975 on just one project.

Now, imagine if you delegated just one new project every week over the course of a year.  You could bring in profits in excess of $100.000 a year ($1,975 x 52 = $102,700) just by leveraging freelancer time leaving your own time free to bill on other cases. The bottom line is that you can make a healthy profit by outsourcing and stay ethically compliant.

Myth #5: I Should Hire an Associate Instead of Outsourcing

Perhaps your law firm is growing fast and you know it’s time to hire.  Do you find yourself thinking that you should go the traditional route and hire an associate because that’s the way lawyers have always done it?  The good news is that, thanks to technology, there are alternative ways to get the help you need in surprisingly flexible, affordable ways thanks to outsourcing providers.

There is a significant of overhead attributable to hiring an associate. You have to factor in their salary, the cost of their health insurance and other benefits, malpractice insurance, office space, support services, computer equipment, annual bar dues, CLE fees, practice management software, research software, etc. The list goes on and on – we explore it in detail in this article. All of these things are expensive and must be paid every month, regardless of your cash flow and how much money you’re bringing in.

This overhead can really weigh down law firms – especially smaller ones. The great news is that by working with a freelance lawyer or remote associate you don’t have to pay any overhead costs. Instead, you only pay for work when you need it, when you need it. This is a great reason to forgo the traditional route of hiring a full-time associate.

LAWCLERK is Here to Help You Grow & Scale Your Law Firm

At LAWCLERK, we believe the most cost effective way to grow a law firm is to hire smart, delegate and limit expenses.  That’s why we built the nation’s largest legal marketplace, where new law firms and solo practitioners can connect with freelance lawyers – so you can grow your practice flexibly. You control the projects, pricing, and deadlines, and we’ll handle the tax reporting and administrative work.

When you’re ready to take your firm to the next level, we can help match you with a remote associate.  Whether you’re just starting the process of building your firm or are shifting to a new digital model, we can help. Find out how we can help your firm grow.

Kristin Tyler, Co-Founder Lawclerk

Kristin Tyler, Co-Founder Lawclerk

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