In this week’s edition of Things I Wish I Knew, New York solo lawyer Joleena Louis shares her experiences, both positive and negative, since working with freelance lawyers and virtual assistants.
There will come a point when your solo practice will become so busy that you can’t handle all the tasks alone.
For my practice, that time came earlier this year. I really needed assistance, but I wasn’t quite ready to hire a full-time employee. Hiring freelancers was an affordable solution.
I’ve worked with several freelance attorneys and virtual assistant’s this year, and overall it was a good experience. They lightened my workload and handled the small things so I could focus on my most important tasks.
Working with freelance lawyers can be a be tricky. Figuring out how to create a successful and profitable relationship with a freelance lawyer will take both time and hard work from both sides. To help, here are my experiences with the benefits and drawbacks that come with freelance lawyers.
The Benefits of Hiring a Freelancer
The best part of working with freelancers is that you only have to pay when you need the services. Now, you don’t have to pay an annual salary, benefits, and you can lower your expense for office space. When business is slow, I’ll take on more of the administrative tasks myself since I have the time and when I’m busier and have more cash flow, I can pay for additional help.
Another benefit is that it’s much easier to get out of the relationship if it’s not working. Saving you money and headaches by speeding up the process of terminating the relationship and finding a replacement (if necessary).
Remember, while there are several benefits to hiring a freelance lawyer, that doesn’t mean every relationship is perfect.
The Drawbacks of Hiring a Freelancer
One of the biggest drawbacks of working with freelancers is that they may not be available when you need them.
To ensure I never run into this issue, I work with three different freelance lawyers on a regular basis, so I always have someone else to call if one is unavailable. And since I work with them regularly, they are familiar with my firm and work process, so I don’t have to waste time bringing someone new up to speed.
With freelance lawyers, you also have less control and supervision over a project than you would with a full-time employee. This has been the most difficult part of working with freelancers for me since I have control issues. But I’ve found that it helps to give very detailed expectations, instructions about what you want to be done, and how often you would like to be updated on the progress.
These drawbacks can potentially ruin a successful relationship with freelance lawyers, but by thinking outside of the box and having certain systems and expectations in place, you can limit the chances of having a negative experience.
Where to Find Freelancers
I have found freelance attorneys and virtual assistants through Facebook of all places.
I am a member of several groups with solo attorneys and if you need coverage or help preparing a case, you can post a comment in the group and several attorneys will respond. It’s also a great way to occasionally make extra cash, given you have the time and drive to take on additional freelance work.
I’ve also found virtual assistants in entrepreneurial Facebook groups. This works really well because you will usually get recommendations from other members who have also worked with the virtual assistant. Plus, since the other members want to maintain a good reputation within the group, they are usually reliable.
The virtual assistants I’ve found on Facebook also seem more willing to work on a per-project basis instead of a monthly basis. Which differs from the virtual assistants I’ve found on other websites.
No matter who you hire, make sure you have a clear contract that outlines rates, responsibilities, and availability.
I currently use freelancer attorneys to cover simple court appearances, and virtual assistants to help with administrative tasks. I see the benefit of hiring a full-time employee that can help me with more complex tasks, but I’m not quite ready to commit to payroll. For now, freelancers are the perfect solution.
What are your best tips for using freelancers in your practice? Let me know in the comments below!