Why Law Firms Need Freelance Attorneys

Value of Freelance AttorneysIn a recent post, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog discussed findings from the 2014 Law Firms in Transition survey, an annual report compiled by a national legal consulting firm. Highlighting the average $160,000 starting salary for new associates at large law firms, the WSJ Law Blog poked fun at law firm leaders for their delayed response to a changing market where clients and competition are demanding more cost-effective legal representation. Despite the WSJ Law Blog’s conclusion that new associates at large law firms are “too expensive and often misaligned with client value perceptions,” the blog post poses an important question for all law firms, large and small: what is the best way to deliver cost effective yet high quality legal services in a changing and competitive marketplace?

One of the primary pieces of advice proffered by the 2014 survey suggests that law firms of every size need to “align staffing with profitability.” Specifically, the survey admonishes law firms to stop assuming that a new associate is needed whenever work volume is pressing, and instead consider conserving expenses by using “different kinds of lawyers.” And what type of “different” lawyer might fit the bill? Answer, a freelance attorney. Freelance attorneys are independent contractors who can be hired by law firms on a contract project basis to work on a specific case, transaction, or project when extra but temporary help is needed. Experienced freelance attorneys require a minimal investment of time and training by the law firm, but produce high quality output and add value to the end result of any case or transaction. Plus, the cost of using a freelance attorney is economical because the freelance attorney will be the least expensive attorney billing on the file. The end result is an efficient win-win for both the law firm and the client that doesn’t adversely impact the quality of the service. Thus, maybe the 2014 survey should have posed a more pointed thesis: why law firms need (to consider and start utilizing) freelance attorneys.

Effective September 10, 2014, Emerald has accepted a position with the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings and is no longer working as a freelance attorney. You can reach her at emerald_gratz@hotmail.com.

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One Responseto “Why Law Firms Need Freelance Attorneys”

  1. Karin Ciano says:

    Nice post Emerald! I think $160K associate starting salaries are a thing of the past… but even so, I’m glad to see a sign that bigger firms may be starting to realize freelance attorneys can do more than document review.

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