Associates? I Don’t Need no Stinkin’ Associates!!
A Brief Introduction to the Use of Contract Lawyers
You know what it feels like to sometimes be overwhelmed with work. Your stress level rises, and you spend nights and weekends in the office. You don’t want to hire an associate, yet you also don’t want to turn away business just because you’re jammed now. Enter the contract lawyer.
Contract lawyers work as independent contractors for other attorneys on a project-by-project basis. To find a contract lawyer, ask colleagues for referrals or search online: a growing number of attorneys are marketing directly to other lawyers rather than working through temporary staffing agencies.
In addition to reducing your workload, a contract lawyer can increase your firm’s profitability. With two exceptions (Texas and Maryland), all bar associations that have addressed the issue—including the ABA—have determined that an attorney may charge the client a premium or reasonable measure of profit in excess of a contract lawyer’s fee, as long as the total charges to the client are reasonable. Regardless of whether or not you choose to charge your client more than you pay a contract attorney, outsourcing is still cost-effective for your client, since even a rate that includes a reasonable profit to you will generally be lower than your own hourly rate.
A contract lawyer will not become counsel of record for your client; rather, the provider works under your general supervision as your subcontractor. Therefore, as long as the contract lawyer is not making court appearances, it is not necessary for the provider to be licensed in your state.
Dedicated research and writing services providers should have their own legal research subscription plan (or access to a well-stocked law library.) Except in extraordinary circumstances or as otherwise agreed in advance, your provider should not bill you for the cost of accessing any databases or materials that are relevant to the legal issues involved.
Finally, for risk management purposes, a contract lawyer should carry malpractice or errors and omissions insurance. Although your malpractice policy will most likely cover you for work performed by the contract lawyer, you (or your insurance company) may wish to seek indemnification from that individual.
Lisa Solomon is a sole practitioner in Ardsley, New York, whose practice is limited to assisting attorneys across the country with all of their legal research and writing needs. Visit her Web site at www.QuestionOfLaw.net.