The gig economy is taking over, and the legal market is no exception. Determined to improve their business models and profits, savvy solo practitioners and law firms are now outsourcing legal services.
Here’s everything you need to know about legal process outsourcing.
What is legal process outsourcing?
Legal process outsourcing is a cost-saving measure whereby discrete legal services are transferred to outside companies, lawyers, or paraprofessionals, instead of being completed internally.
Legal services to outsource
There’s a seemingly endless list of potential activities your firm could outsource, and new companies providing innovative ways to outsource are always coming online.
To find the best outsourcing companies for you, you should first evaluate your needs. Do you need someone physically in your office? Do you need someone to go to court? Do you need someone to do project work remotely?
After identifying opportunities for improvement, explore the numerous legal-service outsourcing companies and determine which best fits your needs. And, if you’re concerned about costs, consider services that provide flat fees verses hourly rates.
Not sure where to start? Here are just a few in-depth examples of how outsourcing could work at your law firm:
At a non-substantive court appearance, you may spend five minutes in front of the judge, an hour waiting for your matter to be called, and over an hour in travel time. While you spent two, three, or more hours working on the case, from your client’s perspective, you provided five minutes of value. This can lead to disputes over billing, and this time can consume a sizable chunk of a flat fee.
There is a better way. Take advantage of the growing market of appearance counsel (or per diems) available to appear at hearings in your place for a flat fee or reduced rate. Appearance counsel can save valuable time that can be spent generating more work or billing at your full rate—so you can make a profit, and provide cost savings to your client.
Companies that offer this service:
- AppearMe offers a smartphone app that lets attorneys schedule another attorney to make a court appearance for them with very little lead time. This service has no ongoing commitments.
- CAP-Court Appearance Professionals allows attorneys to schedule another attorney to appear for them, based on the practice area they need.
- Attorneys On Demand allows attorneys to submit a form detailing their appearance counsel needs, and then Attorneys On Demand assigns an attorney to make the appearance.
Case and written work
Traditional staffing companies are being replaced by companies that are providing flexible staffing through a remarkably talented, diverse, and experienced pool of freelance lawyers. This means that whether you need a lawyer to work in your office to assist with a particular case, or a lawyer to work remotely on a discrete project, skilled freelance lawyers available to assist you are now just a click away.
Companies that offer this service:
- Hire An Esquire provides not only traditional attorney staffing and placement, but also access to contract attorneys that can work remotely or in your office at an hourly rate for any duration that you need.
- LAWCLERK is focused on solo practitioners and small firms, and provides access to a vast network of freelance lawyers available to assist with research and written projects (memos, pleading, agreements, etc.) at the flat-fee price you set.
- Montage Legal prides itself on providing access to freelance lawyers from your jurisdiction that they have vetted, who are available to provide contract and project-based services at an hourly rate.
There is simply no reason to deploy your valuable resources scanning, coding, and completing document review. There are countless companies that provide inexpensive scanning and coding services, and once documents are scanned and coded, there are numerous companies that provide access to a vast pool of contract lawyers available to undertake document review for a fraction of what you would pay a full-time employee—some companies provide lawyers in your offices, and others provide lawyers that manage document review entirely electronically.
LDiscovery, Consillio, Integreon, QuisLex, and Midcrest are a few of the many independent legal process outsourcing and e-discovery companies available to assist you.
Even better, technological solutions such as Logikcull can help you complete the discovery process even more quickly and cost effectively.
Other examples of work that could be outsourced
Work that can be clearly scoped and neatly packaged can often be outsourced to a contract attorney or other service provider. Here are a few more tasks that you may want to consider outsourcing:
- Summary of the cases cited in an opposing party’s brief
- Legal research and memos
- Discovery, including subpoenas, RFPs, RROGS, and RFAs
- Discovery responses and pleadings like motions to compel/quash/protective order
- Document review
- Deposition summaries
- Powers of attorney
- Legal articles
- Demand letters and other correspondence
- Corporate documents like operating agreements, by-laws, and corporate resolutions
Five benefits of outsourcing
69% of the law firms in the 2017 Altman Weil Survey reported that shifting work to contract/temporary lawyers “resulted in significant improvement in firm performance.” In other words, outsourcing work can make a big difference for your law firm, so it’s definitely worth a look.
Here are a few more specific benefits:
- Expand your practice area expertise. With outsourcing, you can meet your clients’ needs by selecting skilled freelance lawyers who have subject matter legal expertise in other areas of the law, without hiring a full-time employee.
- Achieve flexible staffing for your cases. By using freelance attorneys, you can get help when—and only when—you need it. You can find qualified legal help at any skill level for any project or case. Overall, hiring freelance lawyers is a great way to manage a large case or a busy season. Additionally, hiring a lawyer in a freelance capacity is a great way to try out the working relationship before committing to a full-time hire.
- Move away from the billable hour and towards flat-fee billing. Outsourcing via LAWCLERK allows you to engage talented lawyers on a flat-fee basis, to assist you with discrete projects or entire cases. As a result, you can charge your clients a set fee or provide blended fee caps for legal work, which is more frequently being demanded by clients and gives you a market advantage.
- Lower the cost of legal services and be more competitive in the market. Outsourcing is often more economical than hiring attorneys, because of the overhead costs employees add to your business. LAWCLERK doesn’t charge its users any sign-up or monthly fees just to be a part of the marketplace. With LAWCLERK, you only pay the flat fee price you set when you hire a freelance lawyer through the site. These savings can be passed along to your clients, giving you a competitive advantage.
- Find work-life balance. Solos and firms are under more pressure than ever to work constantly to make a profit. By using freelance lawyers, you can bring in extra help when you need it, without the overhead of a full-time associate, thereby giving you more time with your friends, family, and hobbies.
The rise of outsourcing
The legal industry is competitive, and more law firms are turning to legal-process outsourcing to stay competitive and profitable:
- $6.2 billion is spent annually with legal process outsourcing , e-discovery, and document review service providers, according to Thomson Reuters and the Georgetown Law Center for the Study of the Legal Profession.
- The same study on alternative legal service providers also found that $900 million is spent annually with contract lawyers, in-sourcing, and staffing services.
- 57.1% of the law firms in the 2017 Altman Weil Survey said that they have begun using contract lawyers, 52.7% reported using part-time lawyers, and 6.6% generally reported outsourcing legal work.
In other words, if you need extra capacity and aren’t using outsourcing to stay competitive, you could risk being left behind.
Outsource services for a more profitable law firm
If you’re looking for ways to increase your capacity without increasing firm overhead, you may want to give outsourcing a try. You can outsource more than you think, and the benefits of adding more expertise and capacity to your practice just might surprise you. And, with plenty of online directories, it’s never been easier or more affordable to find the help you need.
About the authors
Talitha Gray Kozlowski and Kristin Tyler are Co-Founders of LAWCLERK, where attorneys go to hire freelance lawyers. Both have practiced law for over ten years and understand the challenges their fellow attorneys face in today’s fast-paced, rapidly evolving legal environment.
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