Outsourcing Series, Part 3: How To Find and Hire A Contract Attorney


Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.


This is the third, and the last article in a series about outsourcing. We’ve looked at the benefits of outsourcing and what tasks can be outsourced. Now it’s time to find someone.

How to find a qualified contract lawyer

One of the best ways is to ask others for referrals. If you can’t locate someone that way, go online. Many contract attorneys have websites that include samples of their work, credentials, and maybe even testimonials.

Depending on your needs, if there is a law school nearby, you could hire law students to help. They are usually looking for real world experience and a chance to earn some money.

You can advertise through your local bar association’s website or newsletter. Some people have even had luck with online posting sites like Craigslist. However, these options, especially the bar association publications, may involve an advertising fee.

Interviewing candidates

It is best to know what you’re looking for in advance. Do you want someone who is entry-level or very experienced? Do you want someone who is quiet or charismatic? Do you want someone close by or does it matter? Do they have access to legal research services; are they computer savvy? Match your candidate to your needs.

You can interview over the phone or in person. Pay attention to the candidate’s listening skills, and the answers to your questions. If the answers are wishy-washy or inconsistent, a red flag should go up. Also pay attention to the candidate’s credentials. You’ll want to confirm their law school graduation and admission to the bar. Check their portfolio for their writing style, analytical and proofreading skills, and if they claim to have expertise, be sure it is legitimate.

When you have finally found the ideal contract attorney, then what?

5 tips to keep the relationship smooth:

1. Be clear and precise about the work. A vague description of the project may not net you the results you want. Put your expectations into a memo so there is no question what the scope of the work is.

2. Be clear on the payment. If the contract attorney isn’t in your local area, you may want to investigate the pay rate. Check with colleagues, the bar association or even temp agencies.

3. Be clear on the deadline. Establish a deadline for each deliverable, but be reasonable in your requests. If you know you couldn’t do the work in five days, don’t expect the contract attorney to be able to do it either.

4. Be clear about your budget. Ask for a budget or estimate of hours from the contract attorney. Also ask for progress reports so you know the work is on track and not going over your budget. You don’t want to be hit with any surprises.

5. Be clear about when you will pay. If the contract lawyer asks for a deposit, and you feel good about working with her, pay it. If you agree to pay a flat fee upon acceptance of the work, or based on billable hours, pay when you say you will pay. Don’t make her payment contingent on your being paid by your client. No one wants to work for free.

Of course, you know it’s always best to reduce the entire working relationship into a writing signed by both parties. Once the agreement is signed and the work begins, keep the lines of communication open, and foster a mutually beneficial, potentially long-term, association. Good luck!

More in this Series: Outsourcing 101


Get Lawyerist in Your Inbox, Daily

Current Articles
Current Lab Discussions
  • Thanks for highlighting the use of contract attorneys! As an independent contract attorney, I also run a conflict check on the parties involved and will send a copy of my professional liability insurance declaration page to the attorneys that hire me.

    Open communication between the attorneys is key. The contract attorney also needs to be confident enough to raise any questions with the hiring attorney as the project progresses–for example,if a theory of the case is not panning out. Maybe the contract attorney is missing certain testimony, or maybe the strategy needs to be tweaked. My best results happen when the hiring attorney is willing to discuss those issues with me during the project.

  • Great, insightful tips. Wishy-washy responses do not instill confidence, but either does a constant flow of “Yes” responses either. I have witnessed provider relationships flounder when the provider continues to say yes to almost every request. The key as you noted is an open dialogue, and more importantly a level of trust that is built. The outsource relationship is not turn-key and requires a good amount of attention from both sides.