Choosing a Remote Freelancer to Assist Your Solo Practice

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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.

Client intake. Marketing. Billing. Hiring. Supervising employees. Payroll. Legal research. Answering and returning phone calls from clients, the court, and opposing counsel. Analyzing facts provided by your clients. Drafting motions, pleadings, responses, and other documents. Appearing in court.

That’s just a small portion of the tasks that solo lawyers are responsible for completing in the course of business. Law practice certainly isn’t for the lazy or the faint of heart. Despite your epic legal training, you’ve got the same 24 hours in a day that everyone else has. And you have to sleep sometime.

So, short of inventing a device to stop time while you continue to work, how can you manage to get everything done and run a successful solo office?

Thank You, Internet!

We all owe the internet a big thank you. Over the last 15 years, small businesses have gained more than just the opportunity to get in touch with more people that are part of their target market. The internet also provides options for solo attorneys to outsource some tasks to remote freelancers. These options allow attorneys to spend more time on vital tasks like preparing for court.

Why Choose Remote Options over In-House People?

To be fair, choosing remote options to handle many of your day-to-day law firm needs certainly isn’t for everyone. If you like a more hands-on approach, then you’re likely to prefer the environment created by hiring, training, and using employees to work in-house. However, there are significant benefits that come with partnering with remote workers.

Lower overhead for your law firm. Having in-house employees can take a toll on your bottom line. You have to deal with expenses like hardware equipment purchases, extra user licenses for software, desks, chairs, and possibly larger office space. Choosing a remote worker or organization can keep that overhead lower because they provide their own equipment, software, and workspace.

Get only the help you need. If you don’t need help with your billing, but you require assistance with incoming phone calls, you can find someone who can help you only with the incoming phone calls. This is particularly helpful when you’re working with an extremely small budget. Consider this: if you hire someone full time to handle your billing, you could be paying for them to sit around the office after they’ve finished. Hiring a remote worker can mean that you either pay a flat fee each month or that you pay only for the actual number of hours spent on the project. Either way, it will likely cost you less than a full-fledged employee.

Generally less expensive than traditional hiring. Think about everything that you’ll have to pay if you hire a regular worker either part-time or full-time. In addition to the increase in overhead, you’ll have to provide salary and benefits. When you hire a remote worker or organization, you don’t provide benefits. Location-independent workers are less expensive options.

Your law firm looks bigger than it is. There are a lot of benefits to being a one-person law firm. If you’re worried potential clients viewing your law office as something less than desirable because of its size, getting remote assistance is a great solution. You could hire a remote worker to handle your incoming calls and client intake. You could have another person who handles your billing and billing questions. Although you’re still the only person working from and employed by the law office, your firm looks like it has multiple departments.

What Are the Options?

If you’re curious about how using a remote professional could work for your law firm, you have two main options: hiring an individual and hiring an organization.

Individual freelancers can be found on Upwork. You can find paralegals, billing assistants, virtual assistances who can handle your phone calls, and just about anything else that you need. Fiverr is quickly becoming a viable option. However, regardless of the website that you choose, it’s imperative that you verify the person’s background, their skills, and their references. Do not neglect the interview process. Review previous feedback left by other clients. There are freelancers available at all rates, but if you want someone experienced, it is important that you offer a fair payment.

There are many organizations available to provide services for clients. What you’ll pay will largely depend on what you need to have done. Many companies, such as Clients ARM, offer both packages and a la cart services.

Best Practices 

Understand what it is that you need. Start small with just one item that you could use help in completing. Starting small means that it is easier for you to watch over the process. Knowing exactly what you need means fewer things fall through the cracks.

Know your budget. Think realistically about your budget will narrow (or open up) your options. Decide whether you want to pay hourly or if you want to pay a flat rate. Many freelance websites should have a way for you to sort freelancers based on their rate. If you’re interested in outsourcing to an organization, you may have to call for an appointment to get an estimate.

Equipment and software. What equipment and software will your remote professional need to complete the job? Because most remote workers provide their own software and equipment., it’s important to make sure that you’re on the same page.

Information Security. As a lawyer, you know how important client confidentiality and data security is. It is important that the freelancer or organization that you choose is experienced in the legal field and understands the importance of securing client information.

Make sure that you have open and clear communication. First, make sure that whatever language you speak most fluently is also spoken most fluently by your chosen remote professional. This can help reduce any potential for miscommunication. Additionally, hire a person that you’re comfortable communicating with and who is responsive. Having good communication is the key to a successful experience.

Get on the same page about hours. One of the main benefits for freelancers is that they enjoy working on their own terms. For some, this can mean that they work at night or at some other time. If you need someone to assist you with client intake, returning phone calls, or for any other activity that should be done during regular business hours, you’ll need to ensure that your freelancer is available during those hours. Some activities, like billing, can be done in the middle of the night with very few problems. Ensure you know when the remote professional will be available to you and working on your project. Also, both of you need to be clear about how many hours each day you expect the freelancer to devote to your project. If it turns out your project doesn’t take as long as you thought it might, that’s fine. However, you should create an hourly cap and request that they notify you if they reach the cap and then provide you with an estimate of how much longer they believe it will take.

Manage by outcome. You’re choosing a remote professional to help you reach a particular outcome. People become remote professionals to work in an environment better suited for them. Don’t try to force your professional to fit into your ideal work environment if it doesn’t suit them. Rather, focus on whether you are getting the outcome you desire. Regular communication about goals and needs will help ensure this happens.

Working with a remote provider is an excellent way to get the needs of your law office met while keeping costs in check. Make sure that you understand exactly what it is you need and shop around to find the best provider.


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  • magnificent advice and i must got time for these practices to improve myself thank you….

  • Mo Kane

    Remote workers are useful, but they are not going to be able to handle calls absent either substantial POTS infrastructure or taking phone service to a place it doesn’t want to go: the Internet. Law schools have student writing programs that are useful, but if you outsource this work overseas and you don’t already have overseas experience, get ready for surprises–such as having to scale documents from A4 to letter paper. And quotation marks in unusual places. But before you think of overseas outsourcing, have you thought about the effects of such outsourcing on your local legal community? What is the effect of taking away paralegal and law clerk jobs on the profession?

    • I wasn’t necessarily referring to outsourcing overseas. There are companies and freelancers within the US that are also well qualified to assist. I’ve experienced the problems of thinking I’m using someone qualified (for a book cover in my case) and getting something less than acceptable. That’s why I use someone local now as opposed to Fiverr. As far as your question about outsourcing to the local community, it’s highly likely there are some at home parents who were once qualified members of that community and would love to be able to work from home. I’m a paralegal and I work from home on a regular basis (writing for Lawyerist notwithstanding). The company I mentioned is also based in the US and only uses US workers. Your concern is understandable, but also easily remedied by the person / law firm doing a little due diligence research.

  • tracycoyle

    I’ve worked for more than 20 attorneys over the last ten years and it takes effort to work with remote workers – very different effort than working with in-house staff. Not more, I’d argue less, but different. In the last couple years my offerings have changed because offices have changed.

    Most law is skill/knowledge segregated – you are unlikely to find an IP attorney doing child custody work, or a divorce attorney doing trade letters of credit. Many solos and duo practices have or had extremely experienced staff with that similarly segregated skill/knowledge. Finding a replacement in the geo-local population is difficult, a remote worker with the skill/knowledge most often is the appropriate way. I’ve worked in 19 different districts (federal bankruptcy law) from Connecticut to California, Louisiana to Minnesota.

    Remote works, but Robin is correct that understanding yourself, your practice and your needs are vital first steps.