Traditionally, law firms have viewed freelance legal support as a response to increased demand, instead of a tool for creating more demand and with it…more profits.
With each lawyer I meet, from solo practitioners in virtual offices to veteran managing partners, I am continually reminded of the need for accessible freelance legal support how that need has been widely overlooked. The reasons for this are somewhat unclear, but perhaps the way we view freelancing as an industry needs realignment, shifting the perception of it from uncertain endeavor to that of a reliable resource.
For businesses, uncertainty is often what stands in the way of progress. I get it, when you’re running a law firm you’re protective, not only of the business itself, but also the quality of service the firm provides. But at the end of the day, uncertainty is just indecision, and when it comes to running a business, indecision will keep you firmly rooted in the status quo.
Today’s legal industry is highly-competitive and law firms must overcome uncertainty to position themselves for future growth and stability. How, you ask? The surest way to grow any business, including a law firm, is by maximizing revenues and minimizing expenses. Conventional wisdom tells us that increasing revenue generally requires more production, and more production requires more manpower (see: overhead).
How has freelance legal support changed?
The problem with conventional wisdom is that is gives us conventional results. Now, that’s not to say that the concept of freelance lawyers is unconventional, it’s not. However, the idea is to utilize these services in unconventional ways. Historically, freelance lawyers have been used out of necessity when a law firm was periodically inundated with work, which is a situation that will always arise. But let’s shift our focus. Instead of using freelance support reactively just to keep your head above water, why not use it proactively as a tool to grow your law firm? Freelance legal support is more accessible (and affordable) to law firms than ever before. More access has also brought more transparency, more efficiency and, most importantly, more accountability.
The Freelance Firm utilizes a centralized platform where hiring attorneys submit project information, track the progress of pending projects, upload supporting documents and communicate directly with freelancers. Before, using freelance lawyers meant giving up control, waiting to hear back, hoping the project will be done right and on time. This is one of the biggest reasons that freelance support has traditionally been used as a life-jacket instead of a speedboat.
In recent times, the delivery of freelance legal support has changed dramatically and the time for law firms to take advantage is now. Law firms need to step back from the “tried and true” methods of success because the path to profitability is no longer just more associates, more staff, more equipment, more office space, etc.
Limiting risk to maximize stability.
Coincidentally, those outdated methods carry far more risk because freelance support enables law firms to scale their business effectively. It creates opportunities for law firms to take on more clients and manage that increased workload efficiently, with no additional staff, equating to higher profits. Conversely, if times get tough, a firm will be well-positioned to weather economic downturns because freelance support allows them to operate with limited overhead. Any business must be prepared for these realities and relying upon the traditional method of growth (more staff, more equipment and more office space) only leaves law firms vulnerable when downturns inevitably occur.
At some point, a law firm may need to bring on additional full-time staff but doing so normally requires a significant investment of both time and money. By using freelance legal support to grow in a sustainable way, law firms don’t have to commit these resources until they are truly in a position to do so, which greatly minimizes the financial risks that come with hiring staff.
Again, we didn’t invent the freelance lawyer, but our goal is to change the perception of how they are used.