Helping Law Firms grow by leveraging vetted Project Attorneys

Atlanta Legal Tech Meetup

Well, I’m a little late on the report, but I didn’t want to miss the chance to write about our New Year’s kick-off event for the Atlanta Legal Innovation and Technology Meetup group. I (representing Aggregate Law) have been working with Kimberly Bennett of K Bennett Law and Mikhail Avady and Yuri Eliezer of Clientside to get this Meetup group off to a good start for 2017. We will be meeting on a bi-monthly (ish) basis all through the year in our attempt to connect more of Atlanta’s tech-friendly (or at least curious!) attorneys.

Our first event was on January 25th, at the Atlanta Tech Village in Buckhead. We were sponsored by Evolve Law and Thompson Reuters who pulled together a great panel and topic for our first meetup: Bridging the Technology Gap in Law. You can watch the entire evening online.

We networked, Natalie Kelley with the Georgia Bar set the stage for the current Atlanta Legal Tech scene, and then panelists talked social media for lawyers, legal practice management, and workflow automation. In addition, some great legal tech solutions came out to exhibit for the event. We had Clientside, Casefleet, TM Tko, Doxly and of course, Aggregate Law was in the house.

The turnout was great, the conversation was inspiring and the momentum started that evening is carrying us into our next event, coming up next Tuesday at WeWork Buckhead. We’re hosting the Music City Hackers from Nashville and we’ll be talking Legal Hacking, Lawyers and Technologists working together, with the goal of forming an Atlanta Chapter of Legal Hackers. Join us!

A Guide to Posting a Job on Aggregate Law

So, you’ve decided to hire a project attorney. That’s great news!  Now, how long will it take to post your job on Aggregate Law?

If you know what you’re looking for in an attorney, the process is easy and should take only 10 to 20 minutes. The first step is to create a user name and password to sign into our site. Once you’re in, you’ll be directed to a form to fill out the parameters of your job.

On the form, you will set the price, time frame, and identify the area(s) of specialization into which your job falls. (We have attorneys with experience in 26 different areas of law.) You will specify whether need a lawyer to be barred in a particular state (or not) and if you want them to carry their own malpractice insurance. Remember, all the attorneys in our network are Independent Contractors–they do not work for Aggregate Law–so you are responsible for establishing the way in which you will work with them. We even offer a sample contract for you to use in hiring your project attorney. (To get one, email me at support@aggregatelaw.com.)

Then, all that’s left is to fill out the “Scope of Work”. This is where you give our attorneys the description of what the job will entail and exactly what you need a project attorney to do.  Here, you can be as detailed as you like.

To get the post out to our attorneys, pay the posting fee of $99, and ‘Post your Job’. For most, a match with an attorney happens within an hour or two. No resumes to read, no one to vet–we’ve taken care of all that for you. You just wait for the email that announces that your match is made. In it, you will get all the information to contact your attorney. Once you do so, you can get to work!

As always, email me at support@aggregatelaw.com with any questions. And Happy Posting!

 

 

New Year, New Look!

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Aggregate Law has a new look.  One year ago we were brand new and both my co-founder, Will, and I knew we had A LOT to learn. The past year brought new friends, new colleagues, new clients and learning a whole new way of doing business.

The idea for Aggregate Law grew out of my husband’s solo practice. He uses it to manage his own workflow and to help grow his firm steadily each year. We are passionate about sharing it with you and that means making sure we are communicating well about how you use it and what it can do for your firm.

We learned over the past year that meeting face to face was the best way to explain what we were doing at Aggregate Law–the problems we were trying to solve, the kind of business we were trying to be and the kind of lawyers we were hoping to attract. But we can’t be everywhere at once, so we’ve tried to solve that problem of time and space by making our home page a little friendlier and more approachable. We are working to build trust as we build this business, so we want to make sure we are clear about how our process works. We hope our new homepage and illustrations help us do that a little bit better.

So now, one year later, we are relaunching our homepage. This is our response to what we have learned along the way.  We attended conferences, we gave talks, we met with customers and project attorneys all year long. And in each of those spaces, during each conversation, we tried to communicate new and innovative ideas about how to run a small law firm and our way of connecting attorneys. We also tried to answer the questions and concerns you have when it comes to connecting with a project attorney. So we have not just a new look, but hopefully, a way for new clients to understand who we are and how to use our service. Check out our new page, our new price ($99!) and our blog for FAQs. And as always, email support@aggregatelaw.com with any questions. We hope to “see” you soon.

 

What we ARE and what we are NOT

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Let’s start with what we are: We connect smart lawyers. Aggregate Law is a way for law firms looking to hire experienced legal talent, to find that talent fast. We have a growing network of project attorneys that we have vetted. We have carefully reviewed resumes, read writing samples (sometimes several), and checked areas of specialization against a candidate’s actual work experience.

We know our attorneys are up to the task because of our selective vetting process. When a firm posts a job to our site, an email is sent out to all the project attorneys in our system that “match” that job. Attorneys are matched if their experience and location (if applicable) fit the needs of the hiring firm. The first project attorney to respond to the email is matched with the job. At the point of this match, the hiring firm is contacted via email and is instructed to communicate with the hired attorney directly.

Aggregate Law’s task is complete after the match. All the work, communication, and payment from the match point on takes place outside of our system.

Aggregate Law’s job is to connect smart lawyers–the entrepreneurial firms looking to grow their practice with the independent attorneys finding a way to work that suits their skills and lifestyle–quickly and painlessly.

What we are not: We are not a traditional staffing agency. The attorneys in our network do not work for Aggregate Law, but are instead, independent contractors. Because of this, Aggregate Law does not dictate the price per hour that our attorneys earn. We leave it up to the firm posting its job to set the price (along with all other parameters, of course) for each job. Likewise, we leave it up to the project attorney’s discretion whether or not they are willing to work for the pay listed on the job post.

Aggregate Law virtually matches our attorneys to your job to save you time. We eliminate the need to first discuss your project with a recruiter. With our site, your posted job is matched based on the criteria you provide. The more information you give in your job post, the better match our system will find. Likewise, because we match you with one specific and experienced attorney, you do not spend valuable time sorting through resumes and making follow up calls. With Aggregate Law, most matches happen within just a few hours so that you can get right to work on that brief you should have started 3 days ago.

On the project attorney’s end, it is important to note: We are not a job board. We created Aggregate Law to be much more specific than that. We are making connections between specific jobs and the attorneys who are uniquely qualified to complete the work. So, when project attorneys in our network get an email noting a job post, they need to act fast if they want to work. The first attorney that responds is matched with the job. Of course, at any time, if the match wasn’t agreeable to either side, we are happy to start again and make sure everyone is satisfied.

And last but not least, there are people here, too, and I’m one of them. I’m always happy to get involved when and if you want me. If you have questions, concerns or praise, contact me at support@aggregatelaw.com.

A Coffee Date with a New Solo

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I had a great meeting this morning at my little neighborhood coffee shop. It was with an attorney who has recently launched her own firm. She is smart, driven and excited about going it on her own.

And she is already overwhelmed by the work.

To be clear, she does not have all the work she wants just yet. She is still working for another firm as a project-based attorney, but when work does come in, she takes it. It’s just too early to be too picky. And in practice, that has made for some long days and some late nights. This is not only unfortunate for her own self-care, but also for the well-being of her new firm. When exactly will she have time to go out and get the other work that she’s going to need to sustain her new practice?

This attorney is already a project attorney in our network, but this morning, we talked about how using Aggregate Law could help her grow her firm and set some best practices right from the start.

She explained that she had just taken on a client who had a pressing hearing–and that when she looked over the case, it was an organizational mess and a lot more work than she had anticipated. After a long day of meetings yesterday, she had been up half the night finishing an unanticipated brief. This is exactly when she could have used Aggregate Law. Since our matches happen very quickly (at times within the hour), she could have posted a job and had someone else working on the brief while she attended meetings yesterday. Then, her only job at the end of a busy day would have have been to review the work done by her project attorney, possibly make some brief edits and send it on its way. In addition, she could bill out the work on the brief at a higher rate than she paid the project attorney to write it, thus making money on the project, increasing her profits and still getting a good night’s sleep.

She is surprised at just how busy she already is–and is concerned about having time to do the critical work of getting NEW work and clients. At the point in her new practice, she has the opportunity to set a precedent: she can hire out work to other experienced project attorneys so that she is freed up to lunch and network with potential clients and referral sources (not to mention do all the other things a solo needs to do, like finding a small business accountant). If, as a small or solo firm, you make it your priority to steadily and consistently work on getting new work, you will avoid the up and down profit cycles and dry spells that come when you are too busy doing current work to look for more.

It’s true, none of this is rocket science, but for some attorneys we know (my hubby included), it’s hard to let go of control of the work. It’s a critical decision that has to be made: Will you keep the control, work all hours and kill yourself trying to do it all? Or will you learn to outsource, free up some time to network, market, write that business plan….or maybe just sleep?

Why should I pay for your service?

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We recognize that for a lot of small firms, just deciding to use a project attorney is a hurdle that must be overcome. Because of that, we don’t want the cost of finding that project attorney to be another hurdle. So here’s some insight into how we set our rate and some thoughts on how you might factor the cost of our service into your firm’s budget.

When my husband and partner, Will, started his firm, he was doing everything himself. All of it–the mailing, the phones, the photocopying–everything but the bookkeeping was his job. (The bookkeeping was, unfortunately, my job.) We quickly realized that this was no way to run a business, but even with the realization, the solution took some time in coming.

It can be a good idea to start-up lean –instead of making costly hires and renting a fancy office, to just push through and do it all yourself until you get the amount of work you need to take the leap and hire some help. But a word of caution here: if you are doing it all yourself, you are almost certainly not running an efficient business and are perhaps losing out on new work because you are too busy executing the work you have. It can be a dangerous, control-freakish precedent to set.

There is another way. You can start your firm lean and keep it lean by outsourcing and using contract labor right away, working your firm AS a business right from the start (as opposed to working IN your business.)

This works best if you have a trusted source for qualified, experienced help. When it comes to accountants, book-keepers, and receptionists there are some conventional ways to find them. But when we determined that we wanted project attorneys that could execute substantial legal work while Will was out marketing and networking–a part of the job that is absolutely crucial to his firm’s success–the solution was a bit harder to find.

We knew that there were great project attorneys out there–some of them were our friends–moms who had left Big Law because the billable hour requirements were incompatible with family life, or experienced attorneys who wanted to work for themselves, but had no desire to find and court clients, preferring instead to work with other lawyers and support their practices. But how would we find others? How would we find not just new law graduates, but experienced project attorneys with varying skills sets and specialties?

We tried asking around for referrals from other attorneys. This worked occasionally, but I always factored in the “babysitter problem”: Would you give the number of your best sitter away? As the parent of two kiddos, no chance. So it’s safe to say that most firms probably keep the best for themselves. Even if they did have someone to recommend, it wasn’t a sure thing–they might not be available, perhaps not qualified to work on your specific issue.

Our next attempt was to place an add online. You know the spot. And you likely know what we got when we posted: hundreds of emails, very few qualified candidates. The time it took to sort through that deluge was valuable time that could have been spent doing the work ourselves or billing for another client. (Let’s just say you spent 3 hours sorting through, reviewing and following up with candidates and your hourly rate is $300.  Yup. That’s $900 of your time.)

The only other solution was to take out a very costly ad with our local Bar Association. Although we trusted the service and thought it would yield better results, the cost was too great, between $500 and $1000, and obviously not meant to help find contract labor but rather for those searching for permanent employees. We scratched our head at why there wasn’t a solution, a place where this connection between small firms and project attorneys might happen. Wasn’t connection what the internet was doing for everyone?  You can find a mate online, connect with long lost friends, get a logo made for $5. What about lawyers?

With Aggreagate Law, we set out to solve these problems. We didn’t like the inefficiencies–asking around or placing an ad was costly and time-consuming, yet still might not yeild results. We wanted a sure thing and we wanted it to happen fast. A place where you could go to find a project attorney that is specific to the task at hand, and where the connection would happen quickly, at times within an hour of posting a job!

So, for just $99, here is what you get: A connection with a qualified, vetted and experienced attorney who is a specialist in the field you need. And in most cases, the connection happens within hours–not days or weeks. The rate for our service is a fixed cost that can be factored into the client’s overall project cost. (You can bill out the project attorney at a higher rate than you pay them for the work, and in doing so, make sure you factor in the cost of finding them.)  Make no mistake, there will be some cost to finding the right help for your firm. Whether it’s a book-keeper or accountant or a project attorney. The question is, What are you willing to pay in terms of time and money? If you ask around for referrals, take out an ad and have to sort through resume after poorly written resume the costs add up and don’t always end with success. With Aggregate Law, the match is efficient and specialized. Give us a try–see for yourself how much time and money Aggregate Law can save your business.

Contact me at support@aggregatelaw.com with any questions or concerns. Happy posting!

 

A Co-founder’s User Experience: A step by step of the Aggregate Law Job Posting Process

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As the co-founder, I was pretty excited to try out our new site. We’d beta tested Aggregate but no one knew if the app would actually work as it was intended. Since the idea had come from a need in my own practice and I’d just received a lengthy motion and needed help on the response brief, the time was now.

Getting started was simple.  I answered 3 questions: my firm name, the area of law I needed help with, and the start date.  Then I clicked “Continue.”  After that, I created a password.  Aggregate Law took me to a page where I was able to fill in detailed information about the project I needed assistance with. I estimated the number of hours for the project and the hourly rate I proposed.  Additionally, I listed all parties involved so that the project attorney could assure there was no conflict. (Although this information is not required at this first step, it aids in getting matched with the perfect candidate.) I was also able to indicate whether the project attorney could work remotely and whether they needed to have professional liability insurance.  Next, I provided a brief description of the scope of work. The last step was to pay the $99 posting fee.  Once I did, I received an email indicating that my job had been posted successfully.

I didn’t have to wait long.  Within an hour of the job posting to the site, I received an email indicating there was “Good News!”  My project had been accepted an attorney in the network. The Good News email gave me a link to contact the project attorney. I emailed the attorney and we set up a time to discuss.  We established guidelines for how to proceed (I sent him an independent contractor agreement and paid him a portion of the estimated cost up front). After that, we were up and running. The attorney contacted me with a few questions during the assignment, but it was mostly hands-off. And the finished product was both exceptional and delivered in a timely manner.  I couldn’t have been more impressed with Aggregate Law and the connection it made for my law firm.

I wondered if the project attorney felt the same way. Our policy is to follow up on every connection and get feedback–both positive and negative–as we continue to develop and grow the site. He told me his user experience was pretty good and that he “received an email indicating there was work and accepted within minutes.”  He also described the process as “straightforward” and told me he would recommend Aggregate Law to others as “a useful tool for solo practitioners to supplement their practice.”  
It was exciting to see our app work as it was intended, and I can’t wait to hear stories from other attorneys who’ve made a connection through Aggregate Law. Send your stories to support@aggregatelaw.com and/or tweet about your experience @aggregatelaw.

Try us out–your first post is free!

So, we’re pretty sure you’re going to love our site. And we’re almost positive that it’s going to help you with efficiency and growing your business–two things we are passionate about.  But we’re thinking you may need a little incentive to try us out. As small business owners ourselves, we know it’s not always easy to try and trust a new thing. So we want to make trying our new thing, Aggregate Law, as easy for you as possible. We are passionate about helping people create the businesses and the lives they want to live. This means we are committed to helping you work how you work best, and do what you are really great at doing, as you grow your firm as a business (which is sometimes hard to think about with so much actual lawyer work to do, right?)

Aggregate Law is a way to put all of this together –let a project attorney free you up to be the best lawyer you can be, as well as the best in the business. We really want you to try it, for all of these reasons and more.

Which brings us to the offer: Post your job for no fee and get matched with one of our qualified, vetted project attorneys on demand. It really is that simple. Use the code “firstpostfree” at checkout.

We’re here for you during the process should you need us. When you are matched with an attorney you love (and we think you will be), great! Not so much in love, just let us know and we’ll find you another. There’s no way to lose. Give us a try. You (and your bottom line) will be happy you did.

How much should you pay a Project Attorney?

We’ve heard this question a few times as we’ve been out and about talking about AggregateLaw.com and the benefits of using freelance attorneys.  Solos and Small Firms that are unaccustomed to outsourcing are often unsure how to value the work another attorney does for them. We have a few answers to this question that we hope will get you a few steps closer to maximizing your time and improving your firm’s bottom line (rhyme unintentional, but appreciated, I hope.)

  1. The price you pay should be determined by the case’s complexity

Just as you decide how to charge your client, you must decide if the outsourced work should be billed hourly or as a flat fee for the job. The amount you bill for hourly contract work can vary widely depending on where you are and how sophisticated the job may (or may not) be. Legal staffing agencies that place inexperienced attorneys in big firms to review documents often pay as little as $25-$50 an hour. However, when you hire an experienced attorney for a skilled project, the pay should reflect both the experience of the attorney and the work to be done.

If you need some guidance with this, it’s always a good idea to ask colleagues how they might bill for the same work. It is our humble opinion, however, that you should make the decision based on your practice and how you price your work. If you charge $250 an hour for the work you do, then you can easily hire a project attorney for $100+ an hour and bill them to the client for $125+. This way, the experienced project attorney gets a fair rate and you are able to increase revenue for your firm–all the while freeing yourself to do more $250/hour work. In this scenario, everybody wins.

One more note on this topic. It is (slowly) becoming obvious that the billable hours model that lawyers use to charge the client is ripe for change. People are less able to understand or trust hourly billables that set the client’s best interest against the attorney’s. Alternative fee arrangements can be a much more amenable (and efficient) solution for both clients and firms. See LegalTrek’s post for some thoughts about a new way to charge clients and let this be food for thought in how you hire and pay your project attorney as well.

  1. A good reason to persevere: Contract Attorneys increase your bottom line, so charge accordingly

In the NWSidebar, Erin Sperger does some fun math to show you just how costly an associate can be  verses the cost of a project attorney. For example if you needed to file a brief that will take approximately 10 hours to complete, a freelance attorney you pay $80/hour would cost $800. If an associate with a $70,000 salary creates the same brief in the same timeframe, it will cost you $1216 (due to social security, benefits, etc.). This is important because it demonstrates how a contract attorney can save not only your firm, but your client, money. Even if you then bill that same attorney out at $110/hour for the 10-hour brief, you will still be saving your client money.

The RPC Rule 1.5 (Fees) requires that a lawyers fee be reasonable, but this does not prohibit you from making money on a contract  attorney’s services.  Erin’s article mentions that some of the ways to determine the reasonableness of a fee should include the degree of difficulty of the case, the complexity of the issue and the novelty of the issue.  She also notes that you are smart to charge for your time spent contacting the project attorney and setting up the project. And when hiring an experienced attorney, you should charge a fee that reflects that experience.

When using AggregateLaw.com it is up to the firm to set the pay for the project, at the point of posting the job. In doing so, the experience and quality of our network of attorneys should factor into your pricing. All of our attorneys have at least three years experience in their respective specialties, have excellent writing skills and are able to get to work quickly. Read about some of them on our blog.

  1. Using a Project Attorney can make budgeting easier

When you hire a project attorney, you pay only for the work that you need done. And with AggregateLaw.com, you determine that up front–based on your needs for that case and your budget. It can be a way to help lower costs for the client or a way to increase revenue by making time for you to do more work at your hourly rate.  Outsourcing work that can be done by someone else more efficiently is a win for you and your client.

Ready to post your job? Have questions about getting started? Email us at support@aggregatelaw.com. There is no downside–we match you with an attorney you love, or your posting fee is refunded. So, lets get to work!

Meet Jason : a California Project Attorney

AggregateLaw.com offers a service that helps lawyers find highly-skilled project attorneys without the hassle than normally accompanies the hiring process. We try to “wow” our clients with the quality and efficiency that comes from using our site. To that end, we’ve personally vetted hundreds of project attorneys, looking for those who are just the right fit for our network. One of those attorneys is Jason Jungreis (and his resume is pretty impressive, if we do say so ourselves.)
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