Are you a busy attorney looking to outsource some of your time consuming work? Or maybe you’re a solo practitioner who is thinking about reaching out to a colleague for help with your caseload. In either case, understanding the cost implications of working with a freelance attorney should be top-of-mind.
Knowing how much it costs to hire a freelancer will not only help you plan financially, but also ensure that the job can get done effectively and efficiently. So let’s get into it—here’s everything attorneys need to know about hiring freelance lawyers and what it could mean for your practice!
Factors to Consider
Many business savvy law firm owners are realizing the benefits of outsourcing legal work to talented freelance attorneys. A freelance attorney is an attorney who does contract work for another attorney for law firm. If you’re considering collaborating with a freelance lawyer to help with some work at your firm you may be wondering about the rates.
The costs associated with hiring a freelance attorney will depend on several factors, including the contract lawyer’s experience, practice area expertise, complexity of the work, where the attorney and work are located, length of the engagement, and the rate the attorney charges. On average, freelance lawyers charge between $70-$300 per hour for their services. Some attorneys may charge significantly more or less than this amount depending on their experience, as well as the nature of the tasks to be performed.
In addition to hourly rates, freelance attorneys may charge flat fees for certain types of services such as court appearances or transactional documents. Freelance lawyers may also charge additional fees for other expenses incurred, such as travel, filing fees, and legal software costs. The cost of hiring a freelance attorney will depend on your specific needs and circumstances.
Here are some things to consider when trying to estimate the cost of hiring a freelance attorney.
Typically, freelance attorneys will charge an hourly rate for their services and that rate can vary depending upon geographic location, years of experience, and practice area.
Length of the Engagement
If you are needing the freelancer for a longer period, like on a subscription or retainer basis, you can expect to pay more. Not only will you be utilizing the freelancer’s time, but you will also be restricting them from availability for other opportunities so staying available to provide their services for you may come at a higher cost.
The cost of hiring a freelance attorney may be higher in certain states than others and lower in rural areas as opposed to cities due to cost-of-living considerations. These are normal market fluctuations.
Contract attorneys with more experience are likely going to demand a higher rate of pay. Having specific practice area expertise, especially in more niche areas of law, might also warrant that the freelancer receives a more significant hourly rate.
If you are asking a freelance lawyer to turn some work around in just a few days, expect to pay more. This is essentially a rush fee. However, you can avoid this by giving the freelancer plenty of time to do their best work.
For a breakdown of average attorney fees by state and practice areas, check out the chart compiled by Clio in their 2022 Legal Trends Report.
Why Should You Hire a Freelance Lawyer?
There are numerous benefits to hiring a freelance attorney to assist your law practice.
Hiring full-time associates can be expensive
The cost of hiring an associate attorney varies greatly depending on several factors, including the attorney’s level of experience, the type of work that will be performed, the location of the law firm or company, and the general demand for legal services in that area. As a rule, typically the more experience or expertise an attorney has, the higher the rate you can expect to pay.
When calculating the cost associated with hiring a full-time attorney, you may also have to consider additional overhead expenses, like benefits, office space, and legal staff. Associate attorney billable hour requirements may also factor into the necessary expenses.
Generally, you can expect to pay anywhere from a few thousand dollars a month to several hundred thousand dollars per year for a full-time associate, depending on the factors involved and the credentials of the associate.
It is quicker and easier to onboard freelance lawyers
As we’ve written about before, the traditional law firm strategy of hiring full-time in office associates can take a lot of time. It can take three to 12 months to hire a lateral associate. New lawyer hiring out of law school only happens twice a year.
Contract lawyers can usually be brought on board more quickly than full-time associates and there’s not a long hiring process. Plus, when working with freelance lawyers they typically have years of experience and don’t require as much hand holding. They can work very independently and produce high quality work product. This can help law firms and companies meet deadlines more quickly and overall be more efficient in completing projects.
Freelance attorneys add diversity to your team
Contract attorneys also come from a variety of backgrounds, have a broad range of experiences, and bring diverse perspectives to the team, which strengthens the law firm or company and the quality of legal services provided.
Working as a freelance attorney is a fantastic career path for disabled attorneys who may need to work from home. It is also a smart option for military spouses or semi-retired attorneys who don’t want to practice full time in an office.
Your bottom line will increase when you utilize a contract attorney
There are several ways that freelance lawyers can help your firm. They can boost productivity by helping with legal research, document review, drafting any sort of agreement. They can be an extra set of eyes to identify any issues or potential concerns in a case. This can reduce risks and potential disputes, as well as help to avoid mistakes, which could all negatively impact your bottom line.
Freeing up your time by delegating these time consuming tasks can allow you to meet with more potential clients. This can lead to increased referrals and more new clients hiring your firm each month.
Experienced lawyers can also provide legal advice and handle legal matters on the firm’s behalf provided they are properly licensed. The contract lawyer can advise on topics like regulatory compliance, intellectual property, and contract disputes. Legal advising can ensure the client can make informed decisions, which can improve the case outcome. Freelancer lawyers can also prepare and file documents, represent the client in proceedings, and conduct settlement negotiations. This can help reduce the workload on the company’s internal legal team, which allows the team to focus on other matters and helps to boost the bottom line.
Companies and law firms alike can improve their bottom line by utilizing contracted work. For example, after considering the freelancer’s experience, the nature of the tasks, practice area, your market, and your location, you then determine a reasonable rate to bill to your client is $250 per hour and you hire the freelancer for 30 hours of work at $100 per hour, you will bill the client $7500 ($250 x 30) for the freelancer’s work and pay the freelance attorney $3000 ($100 x 30). That’s a $4500 profit! Not only have you freed yourself up for other work, but you’ve also improved your capacity to accept additional work and grow your profits.
How Can Hiring a Freelance Attorney Save You Money?
There are a number of ways that law firms can save money by using a freelance lawyer.
On Demand Help
Freelance lawyers can work on an as-needed basis rather than having to hire a full-time employee. This allows law firms and companies to pay only for the services they need rather than the ongoing salary and benefit expenses associated with hiring a full-time employee.
Typically, legal freelancers charge an hourly rate that is less than the hourly rate charged by the law firm to its clients. This can result in more profit for the firm, not to mention the ability to take on more work because tasks are being delegated to the freelancer. There may also be more flexibility in the freelance attorney’s billing arrangements, and they may even accept a flat fee for certain projects. This can help to provide more predictability and price control over your legal costs. Using a freelance lawyer may also allow you to avoid paying for overhead costs like support staff, office space, marketing costs, and more.
Contract attorneys with practice area expertise provide law firms and organizations access to specific legal skills and knowledge as needed, rather than incurring the expense of paying a full-time employee to learn and stay abreast of the laws regarding a specific practice area. This can be a tremendous asset for your firm without having to learn or train on niche practice areas and may even help you to expand and experience revenue gain in new practice areas.
Freelance lawyers can be hired for specific durations or to help with certain projects. This can be especially helpful for law firms and legal departments that experience fluctuations in their workloads or have seasonal demands or one-off needs.
To explore additional benefits, please also read this article on the advantages of hiring freelance lawyers versus hiring traditional associates.
Success with Legal Outsourcing
The legal industry has embraced the gig economy. Hiring a freelance attorney can be an invaluable, efficient, cost-effective hiring solution when done correctly. If you or your firm is considering hiring a freelance lawyer, it’s important to take into consideration the various factors that impact the cost of their services.
Estimating the price upfront is only one step in selecting and working with experienced and talented lawyers. You also need to understand efficient delegation strategies and ways you can fully leverage these legal professionals. LAWCLERK is here to help you hire, delegate, and boost your bottom line. We connect hiring attorneys with freelance lawyers. Not only can our freelance attorneys help law firms and companies save money, but we also provide a wide and diverse pool of talent without geographic limitations.