All too often, when it comes to trying new things we are our own worst enemy—especially when it comes to attorneys. We’ll overanalyze and overthink something to death—building it up in our minds to be an insurmountable mountain, when in fact we are really facing a pebble.
Next time you are considering a new tool or product for your law practice—or your life in general—I encourage you to take a deep breath and try to shift your way of thinking. For example, perhaps you’ve been considering hiring a freelance lawyer to help manage the workflow of your growing law practice. If you are a true solo, the thought of bringing another lawyer—even a freelance lawyer—into your practice can be overwhelming.
If you have been procrastinating on giving freelance lawyers a try, here are five mindset perspectives and tips to help get you started.
Get Out of the Weeds
I was recently chatting with an attorney friend who was debating whether to hire a cleaning service at her house. I’ve hired cleaning help for years, so I was confused about why she was hesitating. Surely, she realized that outsourcing such a time-consuming task was a smart use of her own time and resources. Her main concern? She was worried the cleaning service wouldn’t mop her floors with the grain of the wood.
I had to break the hard truth to my friend, and now I’ll break it to you as well: you are not the only person in the universe who can do the work you do. Yes, you are better at some things than other things. So, focus on doing the things that you do best. Then find good people to delegate other tasks, give them clear instructions (for example, to mop with the grain of the wood), and step out of their way and resist the urge to micromanage.
Don’t get bogged down with administrative tasks or time-consuming projects when you could be rainmaking, going to court or meeting with clients. Only do work that is the highest and best use of your time—delegate the rest.
Once you’ve made the decision to hire a freelance lawyer for a project, you’ve got to be realistic about your expectations. Let’s consider an example. If you hire a freelance lawyer to draft an appellate brief, then it would be unrealistic to expect to get the first draft back that you could immediately turn around and file with the court without spending any time reviewing and editing the brief yourself.
You will never get work product that is 100% perfect from a freelance lawyer, especially the first time you work together. After you find a talented freelancer or small team of freelancers, then you can build a rapport and efficiencies over time. However, in general, you should expect to get a work product that is around 80% of the way complete. You will need to edit the work, add additional facts, apply local rules and spend a reasonable amount of time putting finishing touches on the work before it leaves your desk.
If you get a project that is 80% done—that’s a win. Getting an appellate brief 80% of the way done by a freelance lawyer frees up your valuable time so you can work on other activities which are a much better use of your talents.
Invest at the Onset for Maximum Returns
Spend sufficient time at the beginning of a project to set your freelancer up for success. Give them a clear scope of work and specific deadlines, and let them know what you expect as the end result.
Many attorneys I talk to believe it will take them longer to explain a project to a freelancer than it would for the attorney to just do the work themselves. That’s what I used to think. But let’s dig into that a little more. Let’s say you have 1,200 pages of documents that were just produced by your opposing party. You need to review them, organize them, and make a log of what these documents contain. Maybe you’re a fast worker and you can get through 100 pages an hour. At this rate, it will still take you at least 12 hours to complete!
If you delegated this work to a freelance lawyer, perhaps you would spend 20 to 30 minutes preparing a document log for them to use and giving them instructions. Once you receive their completed work, perhaps you spent an hour or two reading through their document log and looking at a few key documents. Outsourcing to a freelance lawyer results in you spending 1.5 to 2.5 hours of time reviewing only the key documents, compared to up to 12 hours or more if you actually went through all 1,200 pages yourself to prepare the log.
Time Is (Not) On Your Side
If you are trying to grow your solo or small firm, you simply don’t have time to do everything yourself. We all have the same 24 hours in a day—even Beyoncé. At some point, you will need to figure out the best way to add talent to your team to continue to grow your practice. When it comes to staffing, you have many options, including full-time employees, a temp through an agency, a contract lawyer, or even newer technologies like artificial intelligence.
One of the best ways to set yourself—and your freelancer—up for success is to start working with them well in advance of any pending deadlines. Give yourself and your freelancer plenty of time to complete the work, especially if it’s your first time working together. Be sure to clearly communicate the deadlines and set your expectations. What do you want from the freelancer? Freelance lawyers can’t read minds. If you want a mind reader, hire a psychic.
Last year, I spent months debating whether to buy a Peloton bike. I wasn’t in a good workout routine at the time. Would I use the bike enough to justify the cost? Would it lead to a healthier lifestyle? Long story short, after months of deliberation I finally bought the bike, and truly wish I’d got it sooner. I am stronger and healthier than I’ve been in years.
Don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you from trying something new. Particularly alternate business models that can help grow and scale your practice.
Not sure where to start with a freelance attorney? Begin by picking an easy project like a research memo, and hand it off to a freelance lawyer. Let them spend hours digging through authorities and preparing a memo with their legal analysis. My educated guess is that you’ll probably wish you had tried it sooner.
The legal industry is notorious for being late adopters, slow to change, apprehensive to embrace new technologies and business processes. Although it’s smart to be cautious, it’s also wise to try new courses of action that could lead to increased production and profitability.
About the Author
Kristin Tyler is co-founder of LAWCLERK, an online platform for attorneys to hire freelance lawyers. Contact her on Twitter @KristinTyler.