Experienced High Quality, Cost Effective Freelance Legal Support when Needed
What is a Freelance Support Attorney?
A freelance support attorney is an attorney that works with other attorneys/firms on a case-by-case basis to assist in the representation of clients. When retaining services of a freelance support attorney, the freelance support attorney does not become an associate of the hiring attorney/firm and no ongoing relationship is created between the freelance support attorney and the hiring attorney/firm’s clients. The hiring attorney/firm defines the precise work to be done by the freelance support attorney on a project by project basis. Once the assigned work is completed, the relationship between the hiring attorney/firm and the freelance support attorney terminates until/unless a new agreement is entered into or another agreement is ongoing.
What is the Difference between a Contract Attorney
and a Freelance Support Attorney?
While the term “contract attorney” is a well-known phrase in the legal community, the term “freelance support attorney” is less recognizable and understood. The term contract attorney may be synonymous with support attorney, but often is not. A contract attorney generally only has one client, works on a job site, may be employed by a temporary agency or serve as general counsel, follows the employer’s instructions without variation, does not provide her own supplies or equipment, the work undertaken is generally limited to more basic tasks such as document reviews, and often punches a timeclock and receives regular paychecks. A freelance support attorney, on the other hand, is a licensed attorney hired by other attorneys to assist in the broad representation of the hiring attorney’s clients on a project by project and as needed basis. A freelance support attorney generally works for more than one client at a time, sets her own goals while working hand-in-hand and under the supervision of the hiring attorney, determines her own hours and rates, is an experienced attorney undertaking all phases of legal representation, and generally works remotely. An experienced freelance support attorney will maintain a subscription to either Westlaw or Lexis, allowing the hiring attorney to have access to an invaluable research tool without having to commit to monthly fees or otherwise invest in research costs. The relationship established with a freelance support attorney can be short-term or long-term, but is always flexible.
How Does Outsourcing Work to a Freelance Support Attorney
Help My Practice?
Outsourcing work to a qualified freelance support attorney allows you to work smarter by being flexible with your staffing needs and is a low risk, low cost, minimal commitment alternative to meeting the day-to-day needs of a thriving law practice. Benefits of associating with an experienced freelance support attorney include, inter alia:
Better Representation of Clients. Outsourcing work to a qualified freelance support attorney allows you to spend more time on the issues you choose, while handing off other tasks to be completed by an experienced attorney without interference in the quality or timeliness of the work.
Increased Client Satisfaction by Saving Clients Money. A freelance support attorney’s rates are generally significantly lower than the hourly rates than charged by other attorneys even when the support attorney has many years of experience. As a result, the rates charged your clients for the work performed by the freelance support attorney, even when a premium is added, are generally lower as well, increasing the client’s overall satisfaction.
Increased Revenue Through New Business. A Freelance legal support attorney works on a project-by-project basis as needed, allowing you to increase your workflow without increasing overhead or taking on additional long-term commitments. Rather than turning away a new client, or additional work from an existing client, because your/your firm’s workload is already at its max, utilizing the services of a freelance support attorney allows you to take on the additional work, increasing your overall net profits. When the workflow decreases, there is no on-going relationship with or obligations to the freelance support attorney to worry about.
Increased Profits by Charging a Premium on Outsourced Work. By charging clients a premium for the work performed by the freelance support attorney you can increase profits, as little of the hiring attorney’s time is required to supervise the freelance support attorney’s work.
Reduced Stress and Increased Enjoyment of Your Practice. Outsourcing the tedious aspects of a legal practice, such as research and document preparation, reduces the overall stress associated with meeting the day-to-day obligations associated with the practice of law. It also allows you to focus your efforts on those aspects of the practice you enjoy most and/or that are most beneficial.
Increased Free Time. Outsourcing work to a freelance support attorney allows you the freedom to grow your practice or prepare for a complex or particularly detailed deposition, settlement, hearing or trial and/or devote more time to family, while maintaining existing clients and workloads.
Reduced Chances of a Malpractice Claim. Because outsourcing work to a freelance support attorney allows you to meet work deadlines more easily, there is less chance that a filing deadline will be missed or other issues inadvertently overlooked, lowering your chance of having a malpractice claim filed against you.
Access to Research Resources While Reducing Research Costs. Outsourcing legal research projects to a qualified freelance support attorney can allow you to save on research costs as you will no longer have to maintain a monthly subscription to an expensive research database such as Lexis or Westlaw. In addition, a freelance support attorney is one of the few attorneys who specializes in legal research allowing the support attorney to complete the legal research more efficiently and economically, reducing the overall cost of the research.
Expand Practice Areas. Outsourcing work to a qualified freelance support attorney allows you to expand your areas of practice as needed to meet your clients’ needs without having to become an expert in a new area of law. A freelance support attorney can have years of experience in a practice area you do not.
Extend Legal Resources. No matter how long you have been in practice, there are times when you have questions on how best to proceed. Associating with an experienced freelance support attorney allows you to brainstorm ideas and discuss strategies without betraying client confidences or going outside your firm for answers.
Retain Control. Associating with a freelance support attorney does not mean giving up control over your practice. You retain complete control over the representation of the client, as well as the freelance support attorney, as you supervise the work performed by the freelance support attorney, approving and adopting the final work product.
Maintain Client Relationships. A freelance support attorney does not work directly for your clients. Rather, you maintain all direct relationships with your clients.
Is it Ethical to Work with a Freelance Support Attorney to
Assist in the Representation of a Client?
Yes, it is ethical to work with a freelance support attorney to assist you in the representation of your clients. Outsourcing legal work to freelance legal support is a growing trend, as it allows attorneys/firms to better serve their clients while keeping their costs and long-term commitments to a minimum. “There is nothing unethical about a lawyer outsourcing legal and nonlegal services, provided the outsourcing lawyer renders legal services to the client with the ‘legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation,’ as required by Rule 1.1.” ABA Op. 08-451. Almost every state recognizes the benefits of outsourcing work to a freelance support attorney, finding that such practice is ethical.
Is it Ethical to Work with a Freelance Support Attorney Who is
Not Licensed in Your State of Practice?
Yes, it is ethical to associate with a qualified freelance support attorney who is not licensed in your state. "Ordinarily, an individual who is not admitted to practice law in a particular jurisdiction may work for a lawyer who is so admitted, provided that the lawyer remains responsible for the work being performed and that the individual is not held out as being a duly admitted lawyer." ABA Op. 08-451. If the freelance support attorney is not licensed in the state in which the hiring attorney/firm practices, the supervising attorney should increase the level of supervision over the work produced by the freelance support attorney. Supervision obligations over the services of a freelance support attorney are generally the same as the duty owed to supervise an associate. Like all work product received from an associate, the supervising attorney must use his/her own independent judgment to adopt the final work product produced by the freelance support attorney, ensuring there is no unauthorized practice of law.
Is it Ethical to Increase the Hourly Rate of a Freelance
Support Attorney Before Billing Clients?
Yes, it is ethical to increase the hourly rate charged clients for the services of a freelance support attorney above the hourly rate charged by the freelance support attorney. This additional fee is not seen as a mere surcharge designed to simply inflate fees, but as a reasonable compensation to you for the oversight and supervision provided over the freelance support attorney’s work. There is generally no set limit on the amount you can increase the fees charged the client, as long as the overall fee charged is reasonable. If you merely bill the freelance support attorney’s services as an expense to the client, however, the expense is fixed at the rates charged by the freelance support attorney and no additional amount may be added. ABA Op. 00-420.
Are You Ethically Required to Disclose Freelance Legal
Support to Your Clients?
You are not always required to disclose your association with a freelance support attorney, although it is always a good idea. If confidential information is to be provided to the freelance support attorney, association with the freelance support attorney must be disclosed and agreed to by the client. ABA Op. 08-451. This can easily be accomplished by adding language in your fee agreement providing for the use of freelance support attorneys. Not all assignments to a freelance support attorney will require the disclosure of confidential information. For example, inter alia, merely requesting research on a specific legal issue would not require the disclosure of a client’s confidential information.
Is it Ethical to Disclose Confidential Client Information to
a Freelance Support Attorney?
Yes, it is ethical to disclose confidential client information to a freelance support attorney for the purpose of assisting you/your firm in the representation of that client if the client is made aware of the association with the freelance support attorney and agrees to have the freelance support attorney work on his/her/its case. Because utilizing the services of a freelance support attorney generally saves the client considerable fees, it is rare that the client will decline the freelance support attorney’s association. A freelance support attorney is bound by the same ethical obligations as any other attorney.
Do the Freelance Support Attorney’s Clients Become My Clients
and Vice Versa for Purposes of Client Conflict Rules?
No, a freelance support attorney’s clients are not automatically deemed to be your clients, as the freelance support attorney is not an associate. Nor, are your clients automatically clients of the freelance support attorney. As long as confidential client information is kept separate, only those clients shared between you and the freelance support attorney are deemed clients of both for purposes of determining conflicts of interest.
What Tasks Can be Easily and Efficiently Outsourced to
Freelance Legal Support?
Almost any task can be outsourced to a freelance support attorney. For example, inter alia:
Legal Research and/or Memorandum Preparation. One of the most common and easily assignable tasks is legal research, as it is a time-consuming element of most cases. A freelance support attorney is an expert in legal research and memorandum preparation.
Preparation of Litigation Related Documents. An experienced freelance support attorney can efficiently assist in preparing all types of litigation related documents including, inter alia, letters to clients, complaints, answers, discovery requests/responses, dispositive and other motions, affidavits/declarations, jury instructions, deposition outlines/questions/summaries, pre-trial statements, findings of fact and conclusions of law, proposed orders, appellate briefs.
Preparation of Transactional Documents. An experienced freelance support attorney can efficiently assist in the drafting of transactional documents including, inter alia, contracts, entity formation documents, non-compete/non-disclosure agreements, asset purchase agreements, operating agreements, independent contractor agreements, policy and procedure statements, employee handbooks, property management agreements, settlement agreements, guaranty agreements, exclusive business agreements, marketing agreements.
Preparation/Review/Edit of Written Materials. An experienced freelance support attorney can easily assist in the preparation and/or review and editing of large writing projects including, inter alia, master’s thesis, CLE materials, treatise articles.
How Are Freelance Support Attorneys Paid?
A freelance support attorney may be paid on a flat fee, hourly or mix rate. You pay the freelance support attorney directly. There is no direct relationship between the freelance support attorney and your client. For tax purposes, a 1099 form will be provided to the freelance support attorney at the end of the year.
Are You Ethically Required to Disclose the Billing Rates
of Freelance Legal Support?
No, you are not ethically required to disclose what you pay for freelance legal support. You ordinarily do not tell your clients what you pay your associates per hour. The same standard applies to freelance support attorneys.
What About Malpractice Insurance Coverage?
Although a freelance support attorney may have their own malpractice coverage, it generally will not assist you in the representation of your clients. Such coverage by the freelance support attorney would apply to work provided for the freelance attorney’s own clients. There is no attorney-client relationship between the freelance support attorney and your clients. All you need to do is contact your malpractice insurance carrier and add the freelance support attorney to your coverage. This can be easily and quickly done, usually with no additional expense.
Is it Easy to Associate with a Freelance Support Attorney?
Yes, it is easy to associate with an experienced freelance support attorney even though he/she does not work in your office and may reside in a different state. Assignments can be discussed by phone, email and/or texts. Necessary information can easily and confidentially be sent by dropbox or another comparable cloud service and/or transferred by flash drive.