For Attorneys

 

LAWCLERK™ - Where Attorneys Go To Hire Freelance Lawyers 

 

“It is fitting to remember that those firms that are most likely to survive and prosper in the new market environment are not necessarily the oldest or the strongest or the smartest, but rather those most able to adapt to the changes around them."1

 

LAWCLERK was developed in response to the changing legal landscape to help solo practicioners and small firms produce a better product for their clients, while reducing client costs, and increasing attorney profits.

 

Adapt and Thrive by Using Freelance Lawyers

Newsletters, podcasters, speakers, and publications have been preaching the same warnings for years – “the business of law is changing,” “the billable hour is dying,” and “quality of life is replacing partnership track.” 

We all know the issues, but what is the answer?  How do attorneys prosper in this evolving legal market?  For solo practitioners and small firms, outsourcing legal work to freelance lawyers can be the solution.  By outsourcing work to freelance lawyers, attorneys can:

  1. Leverage the time of other attorneys without the significant expense of full-time employees.  As there are only 24 hours in the day, the only way to increase the legal services you provide (and therefore your profits) is by engaging other attorneys to assist you so that you can accomplish two, three, or four times as much in the same 24 hours.  This is the premise underlying the old associate leverage model.  However, with the burgeoning nationwide network of skilled freelance lawyers, you can add subject matter expertise to your practice when and only when you need it without adding overhead.  The use of freelance lawyers brings the dated associate model into the modern world making both the hiring attorneys and the freelance lawyers more profitable.
  2. Have flexible staffing.  Most attorneys’ practices ebb and flow, such that one week they need three extra attorneys to fully service their clients’ needs and the next week they only need one.  By engaging freelance lawyers, attorneys can avoid: (i) missing clients’ desired (though often self-imposed) timelines; (ii) pulling all-nighters; (iii) turning down new clients; and (iv) hiring employees that find themselves without work to do in slow weeks, which are a drain on profitability, client retention, and quality of life.
  3. Move away from the billable hour.  Law firm realization of standardized rates have been declining dramatically since 20072 as clients are demanding more certainty in pricing.  While legal influencers often talk about this in terms of alternative fee arrangements like flat fees, this “overlooks a major shift that has occurred over the past decade: the widespread client insistence on budgets (with caps) for both transactional and litigation matters."3  Using freelance lawyers allows attorneys to meet clients’ billing demands without negatively impacting their profit margin.  For instance, if you know that you will pay a freelance attorney $1,500 to prepare a motion for summary judgment and $1,000 to prepare a reply, you can comfortably quote a flat fee for motion practice, thereby meeting the client’s need for certainty without assuming the risk of nonpayment.

  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.4

Firms are using contract lawyers, staff lawyers and part-time lawyers in an effort to mitigate costs and improve efficiency and profitability.  The stigma about the quality of contract lawyer work is gone in most firms, in our experience, and clients find such strategies to be acceptable if not preferable.

Half of all law firms in the 2017 survey said they have significantly changed their staffing strategy since the recession.  The use of contract lawyers is the top staffing tactic firms are pursing and the most effective lawyer staffing technique….

The use of contract lawyers allows firms to flex up and down in response to demand fluctuations without increasing overhead.  A firm that has addressed the issue of underperformance and identified a cohesive and productive core partnership should certainly add contract lawyers to its toolkit if it has not already done so.

The 2017 Survey establishes the many benefits of using contract lawyers and paraprofessionals, citing that:

  • 57.1% of the law firms reported that they have begun using contract lawyers, 52.7% reported using part-time lawyers, and 6.6% reported outsourcing legal work;
  • 58.5% of the law firms reported that using contract lawyers “resulted in significant improvement in firm performance,” with 26.4% reporting that it was too soon to tell, and only 15% reporting that the use of contract lawyers had not resulted in “significant improvement in firm performance;"
  • 58.1% of the surveyed law firms that reported that they have shifted work to contract lawyers and paraprofessionals reported that it “resulted in significant improvement in profitability” with 30.5% reporting that it was too soon to tell, and only 11.4% reporting that it did not “significantly” improve the firm’s profitability; and
  • 69% of the law firms reported that shifting work to contract/temporary lawyers “resulted in significant improvement in firm performance."5

 

So How Do I Grow My Business and Profits Using Freelance Lawyers?

Almost every solo and small firm attorney has had one or both of these unfortunately common experiences: 

Scenario 1: Associates are expensive.  And, all too often, once you spend a year training them, they leave to hang up their own shingle or join a higher paying firm.  The harsh result – another attorney benefits from your countless hours of training and you are left high and dry to figure out how to handle the work you had previously delegated to your not-so-faithful associate.  

Scenario 2: You have not yet hired an associate, because you are leery of the reality of the roller coaster of the practice of law – feast or famine.  While every attorney prays to be blessed with a steady workflow, few can harness that unicorn.  So, instead, you find yourself working all day, every day, missing friend’s birthdays and kids’ recitals, and then panicking when you actually have a minute to breath because you fear the next client may not come in the door.

There is a better solution!  By engaging freelance lawyers on a project basis, attorneys can obtain the subject matter expertise on a project by project basis at the flat fee price they set without increasing overhead.  Here are a few examples of how attorneys on LAWCLERK have priced and billed projects completed by skilled freelance lawyers, resulting in a better work product, a lower cost to their clients, and a greater profit for the attorneys.

Project Type Flat Fee Price Paid Amount Attorney Billed to Client Attorney Profit
Research Memo $1,250 10.3 hours@ $185/hr = $1,906 $656
Motion in Limine $500  7.9 hours@ $185/hr = $1,462 $962
RFP (Doc Request) $400 6.25 hours@ $185/hr = $1,156 $756
Residential Lease $250 $750.00 flat fee $500
Simple Will and POAs $200 $600.00 flat fee $400

 

Examples of How to Improve Your Practice by Engaging Freelance Lawyers

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 lawyers 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:

  • Having received 50 interrogatories, the attorney sends the interrogatory responses to the client to answer.  The client provides her written answers to the attorney who then posts a project for a freelance lawyer to review the client responses and formalize them with proper state-specific objections for $250.    
  • Having received a document dump, attorneys have posted document review projects of between 5,000 and +100,000 pages to obtain summaries of the documents and/or to identify the key documents that the attorney needs to closely review.

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.

 

LAWCLERK is the solution for solo practicioners and small firms to succeed in the changing legal landscape.  With LAWCLERK, you can prouce a better product for your clients, while reducing client costs, and increasing your profits!

 

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1. Georgetown Law Center for the Study of the Legal Profession and Thomson Reuters, 2017 Report on the State of the Legal Market (Jan. 12, 2017), p. 17, available at http://legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.com/law-products/solutions/peer-monitor/complimentary-reports.

2. Georgetown Law Center for the Study of the Legal Profession and Thomson Reuters, 2018 Report on the State of the Legal Market (Jan. 10, 2018), p. 18, available at http://www.legalexecutiveinstitute.com/2018-legal-market-report/.

3. Id. at p. 10.

4. 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.

5. See id. at p. iii, 26. 33, 34, and 57.

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