Law Practice Management
Give Your Clients the Most by Outsourcing
My kids are loud, messy and often extremely annoying, but they’re awesome. They need a lot of things — to be loved, taught, fed, dressed and more. I try my damnedest to meet all of their needs, but I can’t do it all. So here’s my key to sanity as a parent: My job is to make sure they get all of the things they need, but I don’t need to be the one actually giving them all of those things.
Well, except the love part.
Lawyering Can Be a Lot Like Parenting
Some things can’t be outsourced. But I don’t need to spend hours hand-making my kids’ Halloween costumes. I can do my job by buying them costumes and ensuring that they aren’t particularly hazardous (see Bag O’ Glass). And I don’t have to make them lunch every day — the school can do that. I do my job by ensuring the school is offering healthy choices (that my kids won’t touch).
Here’s the thing. With every task my kids require me to outsource, my kids usually get the better deal. The store-bought Pokemon costume looks way better than my awkward stuffed pillow with holes for legs. And, my time is better spent playing with them in the morning instead of grouchily packing sad-looking lunches. My kids are better served by me smartly outsourcing categories of things they need, with the added benefit that my life is much more manageable.
In law as in child-rearing, your clients need you to do certain things for them. They need your love in the form of guidance and counsel. They need you to be the expert in their needs, to guide them through the best course of action, and to execute at your highest skill level. They do not need you to spend your time working on things below your skill level. For example, if your client hired you because of your 20 years of experience in medical malpractice litigation, you probably should not be going anywhere near a Westlaw login page. If you don’t have an associate to help, this is work you can delegate to a competent freelance attorney. And you can probably be sure that an experienced freelancer will conduct the research in a more efficient and thorough manner, resulting in better service to your client at a lower cost.
Again, you need to make sure the work your client needs gets done, but you don’t have to do it yourself. And often times, it’s better for you and it’s better for your client if you don’t.
Five Ways to Get the Most from Hiring Freelance Lawyers
Here are five tips to improve client service — and manage your workflow — through outsourcing.
- Disaggregate matters. With any matter that comes through your door, break it into component parts. For example, a piece of litigation would break down to components like case review, research, drafting pleadings, motion practice, mediation, oral advocacy and so on. Place these tasks on a skill hierarchy and determine where you fit. Anything that is below your level is likely a good candidate for outsourcing.
- Use experienced freelance attorneys. It may be tempting to use the lowest-price attorneys you can find to help you, but this will likely end up costing you more in the long run. Also, clients will feel more comfortable with you pulling in a freelancer if it’s someone who has significant experience under her belt.
- Get client consent. While jurisdictions have varying requirements related to client consent when using a freelancer, it’s always a good idea to get it. The goal here is to provide better client service, and getting a client’s buy-in is a necessary part of that. Your clients will usually be happy to give consent with the understanding that it frees you up to do the higher-level work — and that they will likely save some money as well.
- Supervise the work of freelancers. When you use a freelancer, you still have a duty to supervise the work to ensure competent representation for your client. Use an inexperienced attorney and you may find yourself having to put in some serious work to manage and review the person’s work product, losing out on a large part of the benefit of delegating (see no. 1). No matter what, be sure you are not simply rubber-stamping the work of a freelancer, no matter how experienced.
- Pass cost savings on to the client. When you use a freelancer, even a very experienced one, he should cost less than you do. While in most jurisdictions you can mark up the freelancer’s work (as long as the overall rate is reasonable), a benefit of outsourcing work is a reduction in cost to clients.
Nicole Bradick is Chief Strategy Officer at CuroLegal, a company that works with lawyers to launch and grow next-generation firms. Named an ABA Journal Legal Rebel and to the Fastcase 50, Nicole is the founder of Custom Counsel, a nationwide network of freelance attorneys, which was acquired by CuroLegal in 2015. She writes and speaks about the changing legal marketplace, the evolution of the law firm business model, and the technology that allows attorneys to do their work better, faster and cheaper. Follow her on Twitter at @NicoleBradick.
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