How to Work With Freelance Lawyers, Part 1: Deciding What to Delegate

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You’re up to your eyeballs in work, spending late nights and weekends at the office. You know that working with a freelance lawyer can help you avoid burning out and increase your firm’s profitability, but you don’t know how to get started.

As the King of Hearts said in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: “Begin at the beginning.” For our purposes, the beginning is deciding what to delegate. You may choose to delegate a project for a variety of reasons.

Professional satisfaction is an important aspect of a successful practice. You may enjoy trying cases and taking and defending depositions, but dislike brief-writing. Or perhaps you prefer client counseling and negotiating settlements to drafting discovery demands. Delegate tasks that you don’t enjoy doing.

In a survey about solo and small firm management that Thomson Reuters conducted earlier this year, 37% of all small firms (up to 29 lawyers) and 39% of solos identified improving internal efficiency as a top firm goal. Many lawyers resist delegating work because of efficiency concerns that may take two forms. First, some lawyers fear that it will take more of their own time to supervise a freelance lawyer and/or to fix poor-quality work product than to do the work themselves. Second, some lawyers are afraid that a freelance lawyer will spend more time doing the work than it would take them to do the work themselves.

Both of these problems can be addressed by working with an experienced, qualified freelance lawyer. Like a partner or a senior associate, an experienced freelance lawyer will need less supervision, and will produce a higher-quality work product, than an inexperienced one. And experienced freelance lawyers are generally as efficient as—if not more efficient than—the lawyers who hire them. Of course, just as a senior associate’s salary should be higher than that of a junior associate, highly qualified and experienced freelance lawyers charge more than less qualified, less experienced freelance lawyers. By the same token, you can charge more for work performed by an experienced freelance lawyer than an inexperienced one, just as you can charge more for work performed by a partner or senior associate than a junior associate.

Finally, there’s time. Given two projects that are equally urgent—both of which you would enjoy doing and can do efficiently—sometimes you just can’t do both in the time you have. Allowing yourself to get burned out is bad for your physical and mental health; your personal relationships; and, ultimately, your clients (after all, if you’re running on fumes, you won’t be doing your best work). Give yourself a break—before you break.

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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