All successful law firms start off as small or solo law firms. They grind their way through getting set up, gaining a strong base of clientele, and then ensuring there is enough cash flow coming in. If all these things are done right and the law firm begins to take off, most law firms come to a cross roads. They can start to put ads out on Craigslist for new associates (I would recommend something better like ZipRecruiter, but you do you).
But that means you also have to sit down and project whether you can afford a new associate. Do you have enough case work for them? Will they be bored out their mind handling one or two cases? Will you hire a new attorney or an experienced attorney?
All important questions that need to be answered. In my time I have seen law firms go belly up because they expand too fast too quick. They think the referrals and new clients will continue to pour in without pause and base their predictions on this. But it doesn't always work out that way. If it did, more law firms would be very successful. Sadly, that isn't always the case.
So let's dive into some of the big growing pains and how a freelance attorney can help you navigate them.
Not Enough Work for a New Employee
It's very exciting when you have more business coming in then you can handle. It can also be very stressful. There's only so many hours in the day, and there's only so much caffeine you can ingest before you experience serious health issues. If you went into this with a partner, maybe they can help you out, but if you both have different specialties that can get tricky. This is also assuming their case load hasn't grow too.
But there's a fine line between you being overworked and a new employee being under worked. The last thing you want to do is bring on a new employee and incur the expenses of a salary, benefits, and payroll taxes if the new employee is going to sit there and spend most of their day checking Facebook.
This is the perfect time to create a relationship with a good freelance attorney. They could be an incredible lifesaver to your firm and your work life balance. Too much work? You can start to farm it out to a freelance attorney to help lift some of that work off your plate. This way you can ensure that you are having a dedicated attorney work on the matter without having to incur the many costs of hiring a full time attorney.
Further, you are only committed to this attorney for this particular project. No more worrying about if the new business will keep rolling in. You can test out the flow of business for six months to a year to see whether it keeps up and then budget better knowing how much over flow business is coming. Remember it's better to take it slow when it comes to growth then extend yourself too far too fast.
New Attorney or Experienced Attorney?
When you start to grow and get more work, your inclination is to rush out and hire help. But as we've discussed it's a fine line between needing to hire a new attorney and just being overworked.
However, if you have crunched the numbers and figured out that you actually can support a new attorney, the question then becomes what level of experience do you hire? You can hire a new attorney and save some costs, but then you have to worry about training. Training takes a long time. Not only do you have to worry about training them in your company policies, you then have to train them how to actually be an attorney.
On the flip side, you can hire more experienced, but what level? Just enough to not babysit them? More than a decade? Keep in mind that the farther you go up on the experience ladder, the more zeroes come at the end of the salary.
What's a happy medium? You can hire an experienced freelance attorney. Much like the discussion above, you get all the benefits of having an experienced attorney work on your matter, but without the commitment of hiring a full time salaried experienced attorney (if you have serious commitment issues). This way you can deploy an experienced freelance attorney with military precision.
It's incredibly exciting when your firm begins to grow past the point where you can physically do all the work yourself. Gone are the days of hoping the phone rings, and now you secretly hope the phone stops ringing. But you don't want to take the plunge and hire a full time attorney because now you aren't only responsible for your own work, but for making enough money to pay your new hire.
Don't overlook the fact that you can hire a quality attorney as a freelancer to get work done without having to commit to a full fledged hire. I've seen too many law firms fold up because they take on too many employees and overhead before they are ready. Don't let that happen to you. Play it safe and reach out to a freelance attorney to see if they can help with your workload and make those growing pains a little more bearable.