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Plaintiff’s Lawyers Using Freelance Attorneys

Many plaintiffs’ lawyers shy away from or simply aren’t accustomed to using freelance attorneys because ultimate recovery is uncertain. Because freelance attorneys, typically compensated by the hour, must be paid regardless of ultimate recovery, contingency fee lawyers may see only risk. But there are many situations where hiring a freelance attorney makes sense and even creates advantages for the plaintiff’s attorney. 

Maybe you are a solo practitioner thinking of expanding into a new practice area, but you don’t have the time or full-time staff to evaluate the merits of a prospective new case. A specialized freelance attorney can give you a cost effective, concise evaluation of whether you should take the case on a contingency fee basis. This evaluation can include, in addition to applicable law, jury verdict research and opposing party and counsel research. By avoiding a fruitless case early on, you can save money and increase your knowledge of how to evaluate similarly situated prospective clients and cases in the future.

Or perhaps you need to build a library of form pleadings, motions, and briefs to use in the future. An experienced freelance attorney can create time-saving templates for complaints, motions to remand, and oppositions to demurrers that anticipate the most commonly used defense arguments. For example, if you’re getting into wrongful foreclosures, you’ll be facing removals to federal court at every turn. A freelance attorney can create a template motion to remand that takes into account the familiar arguments, which you can conveniently revise as needed.

Because plaintiffs’ bar attorneys are frequently opposite large defense firms with seemingly limitless resources, the contingency fee attorney is already at a disadvantage. You have a big case and know you’re going to get hit with countless discovery and pre-trial motions. You could work your one associate (and yourself) to death, or you can take a long-term view of management and bring on a freelance attorney to assist during busy periods to give you a much-needed temporary boost. In exchange for a high volume of work, you may be able to negotiate a reduced rate.

Major motions often present difficult issues for the smaller firm, especially if you are already spread too thin. If you receive an anti-SLAPP motion, motion for summary judgment or demurrer, possibly with no less than 30 cases cited, what are your options if you already have 5 depositions and two mediations scheduled between now and the opposition filing date? There are simply not enough hours in the day to give an important motion the attention it requires. You can hire a freelance attorney to give you a polished opposition ready for filing, or you can have your staff pull the major cases cited in the brief, create a first draft, and let an experienced freelance attorney revise and polish it. If it helps you defeat the motion and avoid settling for a nuisance sum, isn’t it worth it?

Many times small firms and solo practitioners must focus on a high-value case, but cannot neglect the professional duty to prosecute the smaller cases. Instead of letting them collect dust – an omission which might affect your professional reputation and create unhappy clients – you might consider spending a few hundred dollars to keep your cases moving.  In the long run, it might be less expensive than losing clients and/or your reputation.

Finally, nearly every lawyer encounters a possible appellate issue.  But should you file a writ? Or should you appeal the judgment? These are specialized questions with many considerations, including costs, burdens, relative merits and likelihood of success. You can handle it yourself and hope for the best, can co-counsel with another firm at a high hourly rate to handle the appeal, or you can bring in a much more budget-friendly freelance appellate attorney to help you weight the merits and handle the drafting.  This may be a worthwhile investment if it means you get another shot at settlement or trial.

There are many instances where bringing in outside help may seem costly and risky at first glance, but there are also significant risks in not doing so where there really is a need.  Freelance lawyers provide flexibility and cost-effective assistance to contingency lawyers so that you can get the best recovery for your clients.

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