The 2017 Altman Weil Survey titled “Law Firms in Transition” discusses the growing use of contract lawyers to combat the oversupply of lawyers, the decreasing demand for legal services, and the mounting challenges facing the business of law.
By now you’ve likely heard about some of the benefits of using freelance lawyers to maximize efficiencies in your firm. Not sure how to get started? Hopefully these four examples will give you some ideas of how to begin working with freelance lawyers in your own practice.
Example 1 – Cultivate a Team of Freelancers to Increase Efficiencies and Profits. Two attorneys using LAWCLERK shared with us that after cycling through numerous associates, they now only use freelance lawyers on LAWCLERK. They have found an abundance of freelance lawyers skilled in their specialized practice areas, so they always have someone available to assist them on the timeframe they need at a price point that is less than the full-time associates they previously employed before joining LAWCLERK. After only a few months, they have cultivated more than ten freelance attorneys that understand the nuances of their practices and their writing styles, such that they effectively have ten associates without the significant expense of even one full-time employee. And, they have streamlined sharing the important facts of their clients’ cases with their hired freelancers by recording their client meetings and uploading the audio files to LAWCLERK’s secured document library, thereby maximizing profits through efficiency.
Example 2 – Take More Cases and Provide Greater Access to Justice. All too often attorneys turn down cases at the initial consult because they believe the cost of legal services may exceed the ultimate damages resulting in a lose-lose situation for both the client and the attorney. But, savvy attorneys have used LAWCLERK to solve this problem and provide greater access to justice. By way of example, a client with a potentially small matter may agree to pay a $500 consult fee for an hour with the attorney. To ensure that the attorney makes a profit while still providing important legal advice to a client on a small matter, the attorney has their intake staff take a thorough description of the issue. Then, before the client meeting, at which the client has agreed to pay a $500 consult fee, the attorney posts the legal research issue on LAWCLERK to obtain a detailed memorandum on the issue. By posting the memorandum to LAWCLERK at $300 and charging an initial consult fee of $500, the attorney makes a $200 profit on the 45-minute client meeting. And, the best part, the client receives substantive legal advice during the initial consult to better evaluate her case, thereby enabling attorneys to provide greater access to justice for all, without losing money.
Example 3 – Improve Your Discovery Processes. In another brilliant use of LAWCLERK, attorneys have used our nationwide network of freelance lawyers to minimize the expense of discovery. Discovery is often one of the most cost-prohibitive aspects of litigation and is a barrier to clients engaging competent counsel on smaller matters. Here are two examples of how attorneys have used LAWCLERK to minimize the cost of discovery, thereby allowing them to accept smaller matters, while still making a profit:
Example 4 – Make Appeals More Affordable: Judges and juries are not infallible. How often have you received a decision and believed that your client had at least a 50% chance of reversal on appeal? When this arises, clients face the difficult decision of accepting the judgment with its perceived defects or spending more money and possibly ending up with an affirmance. For many clients, the decision to appeal ends up being an issue of dollars and cents. For instance, if an appeal would only cost $10,000, the client would be willing to spend the money and seek a reversal, but if an appeal will cost $25,000, they are not able or willing to take on the appeal. Historically, attorneys have then faced the difficult decision of whether they are willing to cut their fees (i.e. their profit) in order to take a meritorious appeal or allow a bad decision to stand. But this does not have to be the case. LAWCLERK provides a better alternative. By using freelance lawyers through the LAWCLERK marketplace attorneys (and therefore their clients) can have certainty in the costs of an appeal and can agree to accept appeals without significant risk to their profit margins. Thus, with LAWCLERK, attorneys can improve access to justice, while still making a profit. It is a win – win.
 Thomas S. Clay and Eric A. Seeger, 2017 Law Firms in Transition, an Altman Weil Flash Survey (May 2017), available at www.altmanweil.com/LFiT2017.