While the many unemployed lawyers out there today have suffered the brunt of the recession and jobless recovery, even if you have a healthy practice, chances are your business psyche hasn’t remained unscathed. You may have gone into squirrel mode, socking away resources during the good times for the bad times that might be just around the corner.

The continued economic uncertainty means that you don’t want to turn away work. And, although your workload may be exhausting you, you’re probably hesitant to commit to hiring an (or, for you small-firm lawyers, another) associate. After all, associates are employees, and employees come with a lot of financial baggage (employment taxes, benefits, increased malpractice premiums). What’s a busy lawyer to do?

The good news is that there’s another option out there, and it’s been gaining steam over the past few years. I’m talking about outsourcing.

I don’t use the term “outsourcing” in the bargain-basement, send-the-work-abroad-and-get-back-work-product-of-questionable-quality sense. Instead, I mean hiring one of the growing cadre of American attorneys who work as freelance lawyers.

A wide variety of duties—including “inside” tasks like drafting pleadings and discovery requests, reviewing discovery responses, performing legal research, brief writing and even transactional drafting, as well as “outside” tasks like court appearances and depositions—can be outsourced to freelance lawyers. Indeed, a freelance lawyer can do just about anything an associate can do.

Not only can working with freelance lawyers benefit your mental health, it can also contribute to your firm’s bottom line: all states (except Texas) allow a hiring firm to make a profit on the work performed by a freelance attorney.

Outsourcing to freelance lawyers has garnered the ethical imprimatur of the ABA and all bar associations that have addressed the issue. The bar associations have provided guidance concerning the issues relevant to working with freelance lawyers, including client disclosure and consent; the hiring attorney’s obligation to appropriately supervise the freelance attorney; how to deal with conflicts and potential conflicts of interest; and confidentiality.

It’s a good idea to establish a relationship with a freelance lawyer before you find yourself staring down an imminent deadline: that way, you’ll have enough time to find a freelance lawyer you feel comfortable working with. Plus, the sooner you establish that relationship, the sooner you can get out from under that pile of work and get your life back. So what are you waiting for?

About the Author
Lisa Solomon was one of the first lawyers to recognize and take advantage of the technological advances that make outsourcing legal research and writing services practical and profitable for law firms of all sizes. Through Lisa Solomon, Esq. Legal Research & Writing, she assists attorneys with all their legal research and writing needs, including preparing and arguing appeals and drafting substantive motions and trial memoranda. For a more information about domestic outsourcing, visit www.QuestionOfLaw.net to download Lisa’s free 11-page guide to working with freelance lawyers.