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Basically, there are two ways to grow the revenue in your law firm. First, you can charge more. Or, second, you can do more work.
Assuming that raising rates isn’t a weekly activity and that one’s time is finite, lawyers looking to grow their firm move pretty quickly to “hiring.” Using this model, the hiring attorney gives overflow work to an associate and keeps a piece of the associate’s revenue. This is the traditional law firm growth model but it isn’t the only way to expand capacity, and thereby add to your firm’s revenue.
You can also increase revenue by staffing matters with contract or freelance attorneys. In fact, with the rise of the “gig economy” and the power of the internet to connect professionals across significant distances, tapping into the freelance lawyer ecosystem is easier than ever.
Maybe you’ve never hired a freelance lawyer. Perhaps it seems scary or intimidating. Here are a few steps to get you started.
This may seem obvious, but the first question to ask is: “What work can or should I send to a contract resource?” Start with something small and discrete. Do you have a research project that you’ve already started and a good idea of how long it will take and what the results will look like? That could be a good candidate. Maybe you need a motion for summary judgment written — one very similar to a motion you’ve written dozens of times before. Maybe it’s a simple letter, or an internal thing — a memo or revision of your client engagement agreement. The key is to find something (but probably something “small”) that you feel comfortable letting go.
It’s tough to know how many attorneys are out there providing freelance legal services, but trends suggest that freelancing among attorneys is on the rise. First, we’ve seen the emergence of the gig economy. Driven by the flexibility of remote work offered by technology and a recognition that good, steady work can be found without becoming an “employee,” more and more people of all stripes are freelancing. During the great recession, many attorneys ended up freelancing not by choice but by necessity. So, it’s fair to acknowledge that the population of freelance attorneys is growing.
So how does one tap into this market?
The next big question is what to pay a freelance or contract lawyer. Unfortunately, there is no great answer. However, here are a couple of suggestions for pricing a freelance project.
The boldness of saying simply “make money” reminds me of the underpants gnomes from “Southpark” whose startup business plan jumps far too quickly and illogically from “collect underpants” to “profit!” Of course, there are other steps between deciding to use a freelancer, finding one, paying and “profit.” You need to manage the freelance resource, set appropriate expectations, do quality control and clean up the work product before you send it to the client, and much more. But, in this quick guide, we want to ensure that we hit “make money” because “growth” is where we began. Lawyers can profit from work performed for them by freelance legal professionals. In brief, the ABA Model Rules and related ethics opinions are unified in the position that attorneys can make money using freelance attorneys. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has said that paralegals, law clerks and other paraprofessionals’ services may be billed at “prevailing market rates” rather than the rate actually paid to the paraprofessional. This is often surprising to lawyers, but a deep discussion of the topic is best reserved for another space. In short, just remember that you, as the hiring lawyer, can charge a prevailing market rate to your client for work performed by a freelance attorney.
Leveraging freelance and contract legal professionals can be a great way to grow revenue. And, with the internet to connect you to and even facilitate leveraging freelance attorneys, there are plenty of opportunities to use these resources. Sure, you can ratchet your rates up every year or bring more people on as full-time employees. Or, you can leverage the gig economy to find qualified, eager partners who can help you grow without those headaches.
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Before you can draw a line in the pricing sand, you have to have a replacement source of revenue.March 12, 2019 0 2 0