Avoid Time Pressures
One primary reason attorneys outsource legal research and writing projects is time. Unfortunately, lawyers are not always in control of their own schedules. Deadlines—whether set by statute, court rule or judicial fiat—are ever-present. Frequently, it seems that everything must be done at once.
As you manage every other aspect of your clients’ complex matters, you may find that comprehensive, in-depth legal research and concise, well-reasoned legal writing are just too labor-intensive to take on yourself. Outsourcing enables you to weather particularly busy periods without having to hire an employee or face time pressures that lead to attorney stress and burnout.
Earn More Money
Outsourcing legal research and writing on a project-by-project basis is cost-effective for attorneys and firms. Hiring an associate requires a significant investment in both time and money. When you outsource legal research and writing projects, you pay only for the time it takes to complete the project, but when you hire an employee, you immediately add to your fixed expenses. Your practice may be busy enough to benefit from project-based outsourcing, but not busy enough to support another employee. Outsourcing is a wise use of your firm’s resources that can increase profitability.
Hiring an associate has other downsides that can be avoided by retaining an independent contractor to assist you with your research and writing needs. An employee adds to your administrative burdens, especially if you are a sole practitioner. Your malpractice rates will rise, and you will be subject to all the financial and legal responsibilities that accompany “employer” status. Retaining an independent contractor is much less complicated, both initially and on an ongoing basis.
In fact, outsourcing legal research and writing projects can help your firm’s bottom line. With one exception, all of the bar associations that have addressed the issue—including, most notably, the ABA—have determined that an attorney may make a profit in connection with work performed by a contract lawyer, as long as the total charges to the client are reasonable. (The exception is the State Bar of Texas, whose opinion is poorly reasoned on a number of grounds.) Regardless of whether or not you choose to charge your client more than you pay for legal research and writing services, outsourcing is still cost-effective for your client, since even a rate that includes a reasonable profit to you will generally be less than your own hourly rate.
A lawyer who concentrates in legal research and writing can often accomplish those jobs more efficiently than a busy practitioner who may not be as familiar with the available resources or as experienced in searching large databases for sometimes elusive answers. You may already outsource other tasks to independent professionals, such as private investigators, in order to benefit from their expertise. Outsourcing frees you to use your valuable time in a way that is most efficient for you and your clients.
Additionally, attorneys who do not regularly do research and writing may not have ready access to research materials when they need them. Lisa Solomon has immediate access to all state and federal cases, statutes and regulations, as well as a wide range of secondary sources.
Boost Professional Satisfaction
Some lawyers simply like doing “outside” work—such as trials, depositions and client meetings—more than “inside” work, such as legal research and writing. Outsourcing frees you to do those tasks that you find most personally and professionally rewarding.
Of course, it is not always necessary to outsource an entire legal research and writing project. You may need help with research, but may want to write a brief or opinion letter yourself. Or you may have already written a first draft, but need someone to edit your work. Small firms and sole practitioners in particular can benefit from the fresh perspective and critical eye that an outside researcher/writer can bring to a case.