Learn how contract attorneys can be a cost-efficient and time-saving way to help you manage your practice.
Feeling overwhelmed by more work than you can handle? Forgotten what daylight looks like? Contract attorneys can be a cost-efficient and time-saving way to help you manage your practice. Legal research and writing (LRW) lawyer Erin Sperger offers her top 10 reasons that you should consider working with a contract attorney.
10. Associates are costly.
According to a recent article in CNNMoney, “You make $70K but cost your boss $88K,” if you hire an employee with a base salary of $70,000/year, you are also incurring the following extra costs:
- Social Security tax: $4,340
- Medicare tax: $1,015
- State unemployment insurance: $478
- Health care insurance benefits: $10,119
- 401(k) benefits: $1,750
A $70,000 employee becomes an $87,702 employee. (And this doesn’t even include hidden costs or perks such as copies, office supplies, business cards, and other overhead.)
9. A contract attorney can save you money.
A contract attorney costs between $50–120/hour. Some charge by the hour and some a flat fee. If you need to file a brief that will take approximately 10 hours, a contract attorney charging $80/hr would cost $800. If an associate with a $70,000 salary creates the same brief in 10 hours, it will cost you $1,216.
Here’s how the math works. An associate making $70,000 actually costs the employer $87,702/year (see tip #10), or $358/day. An employee who works a 10-hour day is probably performing closer to 6.5 – 7 hours of actual work per day, once you factor in lunch, coffee and bathroom breaks, conversations with coworkers, and other distractions. At that rate, an associate would need 1.5 days to complete a 10-hour brief. After adding your time spent explaining the job, the total comes to two days. That brief has now cost you $716, plus half a day of your time to explain the job and suggest revisions. If your time is worth $125/hour, it costs you $500 to explain and revise their work; you have now invested $1,216 into that brief.
A contract attorney’s fee usually includes explanation and revision time by offering a free consultation and handing you a brief ready to file. Meanwhile, you are free to work on other matters.
8. A contract attorney increases your bottom line.
RPC Rule 1.5 (Fees) requires that lawyer fees be reasonable. The rule does not prohibit you from making a profit on a contract attorney’s services, as long as fees are reasonable. Some of the factors used to determine whether a fee is reasonable include the degree of difficulty of the case, the complexity of the issue, and the novelty of the issue. You can charge for your time spent contacting the contract attorney and setting up the project. Since she is experienced in legal research and writing, you can charge the appropriate hourly fee of an experienced attorney, thus increasing your profit.
7. A contract attorney is a variable cost — you only pay for work done.
A $70,000/year associate is a fixed cost of $1,790/week no matter how much or how little work gets done. A contract attorney is a variable cost directly correlated to your profit. If you have a slow week, you pay nothing. If you need 10 hours of work, you only pay for 10 hours. If you have a flat fee arrangement, you only pay the agreed-upon price — however long it takes. Budgeting is simple when you can accurately predict your expenses.
6. An LRW attorney’s practice is limited to legal research and writing.
If you choose to work with an LRW attorney, her practice is limited to legal research and writing, including experimenting with keyword searches and search phrases. She’ll read those state and federal Supreme Court cases you always mean to get around to, analyze them, and keep them in her arsenal for you. As part of her practice, she knows where to find obscure cases or materials and how to retrieve them. Of course, every lawyer is capable of doing their own research and writing. But why not just hire someone whose practice is limited to that specific area and is familiar with the most current nuances.
If you’d like to learn more about hiring or becoming a contract attorney, visit the WSBA job board to post your résumé for contract work, or to search for contract attorneys for hire.
Check back later this week or subscribe to NWSidebar to read Part 2 of “Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Contract Attorney”.