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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. There is no downside–we match you with an attorney you love, or your posting fee is refunded. So, lets get to work!
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