Freelance legal support will make law firms leaner by increasing efficiency and minimizing overhead.
We often hear about economic trends long before the impact is felt. As trends gain visibility among the masses, adept business owners will see the writing on the wall and make proactive changes that will allow their business to thrive in a new environment. For lawyers, the writing is now on the wall in the form of freelance legal support.
It’s no secret that the legal industry operates in a very traditional way. Notwithstanding some cyclical ups and downs, the structure and operation of law firms has largely remained constant over a time when most other industries have undergone massive change, primarily due to innovation and technological advancements. This ability to withstand change is mainly because people still need lawyers and the marketplace for legal services has always been controlled exclusively by the lawyers, themselves. But whether we like it or not, change is coming to the legal industry.
We can’t deny that technology has improved the practice of law. For instance, most lawyers today exclusively use online research services. Finding one that can still successfully navigate a law library would be like reading a Where’s Waldo book, except they’re all wearing suits. But technology doesn’t just impact an industry from within, consumer-driven advancements have created external pressures on industries that were once thought invulnerable. The most obvious example being taxi industry. Can you honestly recall the last time someone told you how much they enjoy taking a taxi? These days, the only time someone does take a taxi is when there aren’t any Uber drivers around. Lawyers are now at a similar fork in the road (excuse the pun).
A recent survey conducted by the The Freelance Firm now offer access to freelance legal support at rates well below what attorneys normally charge their own clients.
How law firms can benefit from freelance legal support.
This presents a huge opportunity for the avant-garde attorney. Not only can law firms use this as a tool to become more efficient, more flexible and more profitable, but it can also be used to strengthen client relationships. Let’s say you have a long-time, loyal client who racks up sizeable fees each month. You call this client to propose outsourcing a portion of their work to freelance attorneys to reduce their monthly fees and allow you to focus on their most important matters and respond to their immediate needs. Honestly, how do you think that client will react when you tell them that you value their business and you want to make your services as efficient and affordable as possible? They’ll probably fall off their chair.
Now you might be saying to yourself, “That sounds nice and all, but I’m not running a charity here.” Just bear with me for a minute. Put aside your concerns about reduced billables in the short-term and focus on the impact to your practice over the long-term. Word of mouth is a lawyer’s best friend and if your client is telling everyone about their honest lawyer who values relationships and cares about the financial health of his clients, my guess is that your phone will start ringing…a lot.
Freelance legal support is the key to increasing revenue while minimizing costs.
While this example is somewhat oversimplified for the purpose of brevity, it still has merit. Overhead is costly no matter what type of business you run, from corporate jets to paperclips, it is always best to manage costs because there will always be new competitors to face, clients will come and go, and the economy will always have slumps. And when those things happen, a business that anticipates and prepares for these disruptive forces will be lean enough to come out the other side.
Now is the time for lawyers to anticipate the disruptive forces facing the legal industry to gain (or keep) a competitive advantage. From Main Street to Madison Avenue, the concept of using freelance legal support will only continue to grow. This isn’t to say that associates and support staff aren’t vital to the success of a law firm, because they are. However, the notion that a certain level of growth can only be sustained by adding full-time employees is antiquated, at best. There are only so many billable hours to go around and no shortage of lawyers looking to bill them. So now is the time to stand out, to be more client-centric, to build lean, efficient and profitable practices that can endure and flourish under changing conditions.
For law firms, there are two choices. Either recognize this as an opportunity to position themselves for future success. Or the alternative, business as usual until it’s too late. To those who choose the latter, look on the bright side, I hear there are plenty of taxi companies looking for help.