How to Work With Freelance Lawyers, Part 2: Communication is Key to Effective Delegation


Last month, we discussed how to decide what to delegate to a freelance lawyer. Once you’ve made that decision and found a freelance lawyer to work with, it’s time to actually delegate the work.

Communication is the key to a successful engagement, and to building a productive ongoing working relationship with a freelance lawyer. Clearly communicate deadlines. Explain the goals for each project and, where appropriate, how the project’s goals help achieve the client’s objectives in the matter as a whole.

At the beginning of your relationship with a freelance lawyer, it’s a good idea to err on the side of providing more initial guidance and ongoing oversight than less. For example, if the freelance lawyer is drafting a brief, this guidance may include specific legal arguments to raise or facts to focus on; once the relationship is more established, more general instructions may be sufficient. If you give instructions orally, ask the freelance lawyer to confirm them in writing so you can ensure that the freelance lawyer understands them.

The first few times you work with a freelance lawyer (especially on large or complicated projects), you should require the freelance lawyer to provide brief regular status reports before the final work product is due. Reports may be triggered by the completion of discrete tasks (such as completing legal research before drafting a brief); the passage of time (perhaps once a week for an appellate brief); or the expenditure of a certain amount of time on a project (perhaps 10 hours into drafting a summary judgment motion that the freelance lawyer estimated would take 30 hours to complete). Once you’ve established a relationship with a freelance lawyer who has demonstrated the ability to complete projects to your standards in a timely and efficient manner, you may find it unnecessary to monitor the freelance lawyer’s progress as often (if at all).

Finally, giving the freelance lawyer feedback at the end of the engagement (such as by providing the freelance lawyer with the final version of a brief the freelance lawyer originally drafted) will help improve the freelance lawyer’s performance on the next engagement.

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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