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Legal Staffing

Contract Attorneys and Legal Staffing Needs

During the 2008 recession, the legal industry experienced a period of decline which led to layoffs, pay freezes, and bonus cuts. In the years since, as revenues have returned to pre-recession levels, full-time law provider employment has stayed relatively flat. Experts say providers have been keeping costs low since the recession by increasing their reliance on contract attorneys. But providers who ignore just-in-time employment hiring best practices can miss out on the key benefits it offers.

Leading law firms across the globe understand the growing need to provide their clients with what Laura Cooper, Chair of Fasken Martineau's Ontario Litigation Department describes as "the most intuitive, powerful and cost effective end-to-end approach to e-discovery best practices." Mplace's innovative online legal staffing platform allows the top e-discovery providers and law firms to directly hire their teams of contract lawyers to carry out their document review, contract review, and due diligence projects with unparalleled speed, certainty, and transparency.

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three essential hiring tips that will allow you to get the most out of your contract attorneys

1. Plan ahead.

Many providers wait to hire contract attorneys until their clients request them. Employing a proactive strategy provides greater opportunities for cost savings and operational efficiency.

When providers instead incorporate plans for hiring contract attorneys into their annual and quarterly business plans, they are able to take full and strategic advantage of the benefits contract attorneys can provide, which include:

  • • allowing providers to quickly and easily adapt to changes in workload;
  • • providing subject matter expertise for gaps in a provider’s practice area; and
  • • reducing the costs associated with hiring full-time staff.

What’s more, if your firm is known to offer a mix of legal staffing options (and the respective price points that go with it), you’ll present yourself as more attractive to clients involved in litigation that requires the review of several hundred thousand documents.

Making contract attorney hiring a part of your planning process allows your firm to respond quickly and efficiently to any increased document review or other legal staffing needs, without delays or unexpected costs.

2. Be open to hiring out-of-state.

It used to be that contract legal professionals had to be hired in the same location as the provider doing the hiring. But new technological advances, such as cloud-based computing, have made it possible for contract attorneys to work remotely on projects, including document review. Law providers must consider that the most efficient and cost-effective option may not be local. And it’s not necessary to look outside the US for these cost savings. The American Bar Association Journal reports that outsourcing within the US can be just as cost-efficient as outsourcing to India. Hourly rates for contract attorneys vary state by state. The benefit of hiring US contract lawyers is enormous, in that they are familiar with the US legal system and our ethical guidelines.

3. Treat contract attorneys with respect.

Some employers forget the importance of treating contract employees with the same level of respect with which they treat their full-time hires. This, however, is a mistake. Treating contract workers poorly, either in terms of pay or consideration of their needs, can lead to decreased productivity, inferior quality of work, and frequent turnover, which is especially damaging in the middle of a long-term document review project. In addition, these employees can and will discuss their work experience with their friends, family, and professional colleagues, giving your firm a poor reputation.

Contract staff is the way of the future, yet the efficiency and savings realized must be balanced by decent treatment of contract attorneys, who might even serve as a valuable pool from which to hire full-time employees. Consider having an orientation for contract attorneys or providing a decent workspace for them to carry out their attorney review. Small things can go a long way, especially when it comes to document review work.

Hiring contract attorneys can be an important way for law providers to increase their efficiency and cut costs. However, providers who are not strategic in their hiring, providers who limit themselves to only hiring local professionals, and providers who treat their contract attorneys poorly can risk missing out on many of its valuable benefits.

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