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November 2017

Solo and Small Law Firms Are Becoming Equally Efficient as Firms Twice Their Size: Here’s How…

Efficiency– a word commonly used by law firms to describe their legal services. As firms compete for clients, those that provide the most efficient services certainly have an advantage. While most large law firms aren’t necessarily known for low-cost services, they are incredibly efficient in terms of how they manage and distribute work.

The efficiency of large firms is mainly due to how many lawyers they have on staff. It has traditionally been much more difficult for solo and small firms to achieve a similar level of efficiency compared to large firms—keyword being “traditionally.”

But that’s changing. Law firms are finally beginning to realize that untraditional is the new normal. In other words, the legal industry is finally starting to take advantage of technology the way nearly every other industry has for years.

What is technology doing for the legal industry? Creating project work. And what is project work doing for law firms? Creating a quicker and more efficient path towards growth.

To understand how project work can benefit solo and small firms, it’s important to understand what allows large firms to be so efficient.

How are large firms so efficient?

When a large firm addresses a client’s matter, whether it’s a transaction or litigation, the firm does so in a compartmentalized way. That one matter is divided into multiple, individual tasks.

Those tasks include work such as document review, legal research, drafting, strategy, advocacy, and more. Large firms then distribute those individual tasks in the most cost-effective way.

For example, associates often conduct legal research because it’s time-consuming and, for that reason, is often done by lawyers with lower rates. In contrast, formulating legal strategy requires more expertise and, thus, is most cost-effectively done by more experienced lawyers who charge higher rates, but can do the work faster.

How can solo and small firms achieve large-firm efficiency?

Solo and small firms are an integral part of the legal profession in the U.S., with over 75% of all lawyers in the U.S. practicing in such firms. Many clients specifically choose solo and small firms because they want more personalized legal services.

However, in terms of efficiency, large firms have had a tremendous advantage compared to solo and small firms simply due to how many lawyers they have. However, there’s now a simple way for solo and small firms to increase efficiency.

By utilizing project work, a solo or small firm can, at the outset of representation, analyze a client’s matter and then divide that matter into individual tasks, just as large firms do.

But rather than having the same lawyer work on most, if not all, of those individual tasks, the firm can identify the tasks best-suited for project lawyers to work on, whether for cost or other efficiency-related reasons.

This allows solo and small firms to distribute work among more lawyers, which provides a whole new way to significantly improve efficiency. That’s not all, though.

From a financial perspective, a key benefit to hiring project lawyers is the lower billing rates. So, in addition to operational efficiency, hiring project lawyers also enhances financial efficiency.

Project work solves all the efficiency issues that have stunted the growth of small firms since the beginning of time.

What are the other benefits to hiring project lawyers?

Beyond providing the first (and only) solution for greater efficiency, there are other equally noteworthy reasons why law firms of ANY size should consider working with project lawyers.

Project work offers solo and small firms, in particular, a number of unique benefits, including:

Specialized expertise when you need it: Why pay an employee a full-time salary for their unique capabilities if you aren’t utilizing those capabilities year round? Project work allows you to hire someone to support a *specific *need that you have at a *specific *point in time.

Lower Costs: Project work helps firms lower the cost of services. Lower services make it easier to attract and retain more clients. And more clients mean an increase in revenue.

More Time: By hiring project lawyers, solo and small firm lawyers will have more time for more matters, which will also further help firms increase revenue.

Full-time employees can be more focused: Distributing work to project lawyers will allow full-time lawyers of the firm to focus more on tasks that require their expertise, as well as for other business matters affecting their firm.

Can work on larger matters: Because solo and small firms are no longer limited to the number of lawyers in their offices, these firms can work on larger matters that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

All of these benefits – which are made possible by simply utilizing project work— can result in solo and small firms being able to do more work, more quickly, and more cost effectively. Now that’s the true definition of efficiency.

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