In most current law practice business models, there are very few ways to efficiently increase lawyer staffs during peak workflow and overflow times. These obstacles have been detrimental to both law firms needing to hire and lawyers needing to be hired. The traditional market for temporary lawyers has largely failed to provide a comprehensive solution to the obstacles inherent in overflow staffing. The primary solution for law firms and lawyers needing temporary assistance has been the traditional temporary lawyer staffing model. Such model has historically been viewed as a way to rapidly increase staff for repetitive tasks (i.e. document review), but has not been viewed as a good option for assistance with more complex legal work. Thus, the model is not a solution for creating the elasticity that is needed in order to manage overflow work. The obstacles inherent in overflow staffing can easily be overcome. Here, we explore what the top three obstacles are and then discuss the comprehensive solution for overcoming those obstacles.
- The Perception That Only Experienced Lawyers Are Valuable. The options available to law firms needing to hire for overflow work seem limited mainly because of the prevalent notion that lawyers “need” a significant amount of training or experience before they can be valuable. However, in many situations, this perceived need for lawyers with previous training or experience is not truly needed. In fact, oftentimes the perceived need for lawyers with prior training or experience is overestimated or overemphasized.
Overcoming This Obstacle: Before hiring, consider, in detail, what the overflow work actually entails. Only then can a decision be properly made about the type of candidates suited for the work. Prior experience is not always necessary and is often overestimated. Even lawyers with little or no experience have already gained valuable drafting and research skills. When training is actually needed, a surprisingly small amount of effective training over a few days or even just a matter of hours is likely all that is necessary and will prepare the new lawyer to be productive in more complex matters. Remember, even new lawyers have already proven ability, both in law school and by passing the bar exam, in understanding the law and applying it to fact patterns. Additionally, lawyers with little or no experience will be hired at lower hourly rates. Finally, you most certainly will benefit from a new lawyer likely being a more flexible and eager candidate, as a result of today’s difficult job market.
- Document Reviews Only! The vast majority of overflow work has been limited to basic tasks such as document review of basic and often not even legal-related information. Such overflow work is then often contracted out to legal services companies that place many document reviewers (lawyers or J.D.s) quickly and on a limited, temporary basis. This typically occurs when litigation discovery heats up in a case with extensive documents. Most of this document review work is mind-numbing, unsatisfying, and low-paying.
Overcoming This Obstacle: Overflow work includes so much more than just document reviews. By limiting overflow work to document reviews, all kinds of other project opportunities are missed for both hiring lawyers and project lawyers. Hiring lawyers are missing out on opportunities to acquire readily available assistance for a wide range of legal work and project lawyers are missing out on opportunities to acquire experience in a variety of practices areas, as they seek to develop their careers.
- Permanent Hire or Lose Work? For law firms and lawyers needing ready help with overflow work beyond traditional document reviews, the common, perceived choice has been between hiring a new lawyer on a permanent basis or declining the work that will create the overflow. Hiring a new lawyer requires keeping the new lawyer busy on an ongoing basis, which means acquiring more work for the new lawyer even after the overflow period passes. Unfortunately, the all-too-common decision has been to decline the additional work that would have created the overflow. Such decisions, however, severely limit both the expansion and revenue growth of law practices.
Overcoming This Obstacle: The traditional decision for managing overflow work - deciding between permanently hiring or declining the overflow work due to a lack of lawyers - was economically inefficient. The solution is a project-based, freelance hiring model that allows law firms and lawyers to acquire only the necessary lawyer staff that is needed at any given time (i.e. to expand and contract capabilities as needed and on demand). Overflow work is now as easy as simply accessing an online platform where lawyers can be quickly hired, all based on the needs of any given project and budget. By only paying for the overflow work that needs to be completed at any given time, revenue is maximized without incurring additional costs.
By overcoming these top three obstacles to overflow staffing, law firms and lawyers can then focus on the opportunities presented by overflow work as they continue to grow their practices.