This week in Young, Hungry & Committed, virtual office NYC attorney Vivian Sobers hires contract attorneys for the first time and learns that you really do get what you pay for.
Lately, there has been a lot of controversy about the amount of time that I dedicate to my law practice. Of course, the upside for all that hard work has been a significant increase in business.
As I have discussed before, I feel that a big reason for the success of my practice has been my being accessible to the other attorneys who refer cases and appearances to me.
However, over last summer, I started to notice that the amount of work I had to produce was keeping me from being as responsive.
Since I was already working at full capacity, I essentially had two choices: make myself less available thereby limiting the growth of my practice, or get help that would free up my time to continue being available for my referral partners.
I chose the latter, which necessitated my first foray into managing other attorneys working on my firm’s projects.[Warning, self-serving pat on the back to follow…] Not bad, considering that a little over a year ago I was taking appearance work in Rochester (and making the 12 hour round trip drive) for other attorneys.
Over the past few months, I have worked with three attorneys on a contract basis. I refer to them as my Three Little Bears. Here’s what I have learned:
Attorney A: Inexpensive & Inexperienced.
Like most of my peers who have started solo law practices on a shoestring budget, I’m a thrifty woman. You never know when that slow month may be looming around the corner and it’s best to keep your overhead low and savings high to get through any valley in revenues.
So, my first instinct was to hire Attorney A: a recent graduate whose admission to the bar was pending and who worked at the most affordable hourly rate.
What I found though was that what I saved in hourly wages, I spent in mentoring time and supervising work product. Every project needed to be explained in detail, and I ultimately found that, for I the amount of time I was spending with this attorney, I could have just produced the work I assigned to him myself.
Attorney B: Affordable, Experienced & Not a Good Fit
Attorney B was more experienced and produced decent work product, but they didn’t share the same sense of urgency that I do. Along with being available to refer attorneys comes the responsibility of turning work product quickly.
Attorney B didn’t have the “do whatever it takes to get it done” kind of attitude that my practice needs. She missed a few deadlines, but worst of all, never communicated with me that she was having a problem with the assignment until after the deadline had passed. That didn’t work for me.
Attorney C: Most Expensive, Most Experienced, Best Fit
I was a bit reluctant when Attorney C approached me to ask if I wanted to start sending projects to him on a contract basis. He is a more experienced attorney and his rate was more than double that of Attorney A.
But what I learned is that when it comes to hired help, the old adage is just as true: “you get what you pay for.”
Attorney C was able to deliver work product quickly and with little supervision. In fact, even at the higher rate, he could produce work so much faster than Attorneys A and B that he was actually less expensive to work with, especially when factoring the cost of my time.
A valuable lesson learned. Thriftiness is important, but not at the expense of efficiency when you are an army-of-one with a strong growth trajectory.
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Vivian Sobers is a commercial litigator pursuing a solo law practice right out of law school. She is a client in Law Firm Suites’ Virtual Office Program. Vivian’s weekly blog series “Young, Hungry and Committed” documents the trials and tribulations of a young attorney navigating her way through the challenging world of self-employed legal practice.