Many attorneys don’t use freelance lawyers because they worry about how to properly supervise them. Lawyers have a duty to supervise work performed by contract attorneys on their behalf to ensure compliance with all applicable ethical, professional and legal obligations. These obligations are on top of the normal issues that arise any time a business utilizes freelancers. If you are considering outsourcing legal work to freelance attorneys, don’t let any of those concerns stop you. The following best practices can help ensure a successful engagement:
- Define the scope of the work and set expectations. You must outline all work that needs to be done: the format of the end product and what responsibilities the freelancer has to provide a preliminary draft and complete edits. It’s also crucial to communicate your deadlines and how much time you have budgeted for the work. Also clarify whether you want the freelancer to keep track of hours worked, how to document the time and when you need the timesheets.
- Establish clear rules regarding client and judicial contact. A freelance attorney should not have contact with the client, opposing counsel, witnesses, or other persons potentially involved in the project for which the freelancer was engaged, unless you have expressly allowed it (and you have checked that the rules of professional conduct allow it). In addition, the freelance attorney should not appear in court or in front of any other judicial or administrative body on behalf of the client or sign or file any documents with any court or administrative body, without your express consent and authority to practice in that jurisdiction.
- Ensure confidentiality and conflicts checks. Before providing access to client information, you must do a conflicts check and the freelancer must affirm there is no conflict. The freelancer also must sign a Confidentiality/Nondisclosure agreement. Furthermore, you should limit the freelance attorney’s access to essential files only and ensure both of you transmit information by secure means.
- Ask the freelance attorney if he/she has questions or needs any additional information. Affirmatively asking the person you hired if they need anything helps open the lines of communication. Make sure the person you hire feels comfortable coming to you or a designated person. If you always seem too busy, the freelancer may hesitate to ask you anything, which can be detrimental to the project. Consider regularly speaking with the freelancer by phone in addition to written correspondence.
- Designate someone at the firm who can answer questions from the freelancer. This goes along with the above point. You should ensure that the freelancer lawyer has a contact to go to in the firm and that person will respond in a prompt manner.
- Keep the freelancer informed of anything that may affect his/her work. Don’t assume the freelancer is aware of changed law, facts or other issues. Unless the freelancer has super powers, they most likely cannot read minds.
- Don’t micromanage. Part of why you are outsourcing the work is to lessen the burden on your end. Yes, you need to supervise, but if you are going to be involved in every detail, you won’t get the benefit of outsourcing.
- Build a relationship. This may not seem that important, but particularly if you think you may want to use this person again, it’s good to get to know them. Also ensure that others at your firm treat the freelance attorney appropriately.
- Give feedback. It’s important to communicate how you felt about the work done by the freelancer, especially if you do want to work with the person again. It will lead to better work in the future.
- Pay on time. Making someone wait for their money is no way to build a relationship. Prompt payment and tax reporting are key.
Some attorneys have one or two freelance attorneys they contact from time to time for work. If you are looking to expand your network of freelance attorneys an alternative legal services provider may be a good starting point.
A legal marketplace is an effective way to find and vet freelance attorneys to help with legal projects. LAWCLERK™ provides a secure and confidential online platform where you can look for attorneys with the right skill set and set your own flat fee price for the work.