Saturday, January 16, 2010

Legal outsourcing - the big picture

Two years ago Amanda Mineer and I began building this community of individual legal professionals who had chosen or found themselves working outside of traditional “jobs.” These people, we didn’t know how many, had no idea that they were not alone. They had no idea how many other people across the country worked the same way they did, in the ambiguous world of ghost writing and law firm support. They had no idea that their struggles to learn how to run a business, market their services, and plan their taxes, were shared experiences with others. They had no idea that it was okay to choose to be an entrepreneur and a legal professional, in fact, it was the gutsy way to approach their careers.

We started this project with a simple, free blog. We wrote, people throughout the United States and the world read, commented, and contacted us. Lisa Solomon, veteran freelance attorney from New York, contacted us first and said “let’s work together” and we have. Joseph Miller, a lone, positive blogging voice (JDWired) on the contract attorney front at that time, offered his support and renewed his voice in support of freelancers and contract attorneys. Many, many others have shared their encouragement and support. NAFLP began offering teleclasses, recommending books, having monthly TeleCoffees, arranging for free tax planning sessions with CPA Jere Batten, reduced cost websites and marketing materials through Elevator Marketing, an online database of legal freelancers through, and one-on-one coaching sessions. We have created online forums, Facebook and LinkedIn groups, spoken at law schools and made presentations for bar associations. More freelancers have stepped up to support these efforts. Aimee Powers, a freelance paralegal in San Diego, has assisted with NAFLP clerical functions. Kris Canaday, a freelance paralegal from Washington state, has begun moderating monthly TeleClasses on topics of interest to NAFLP members. Stacy Lilly, a freelance attorney from Pennsylvania, passes on project leads she finds on the internet. Donna Seyle, a freelance attorney in California, has been writing wonderful blog articles educating attorneys about how to use freelancers. Lisa Solomon continues to provide coaching and educational products to legal freelancers, helping them build their businesses. These are but a few examples.

Legal outsourcing, scarcely discussed several years ago, has now come to the forefront of discussion in the legal community. Why? Because lots and lots of legal professionals have engaged in the discussion and done their part to assist others. Did Amanda and I make this change via creation of NAFLP? We would never be so presumptuous as to claim that type of credit. We were a piece of a project larger than ourselves and by taking one step at a time to encourage and support others, we have been part of a dramatic and evolving change in the entire legal profession.

As freelancers and entrepreneurs it is so easy to get wrapped up in your daily work and the simple task of earning a living. It is hard work, time-consuming, and sometimes overwhelming. However, spending just an hour or two of your week engaging in the big picture can make a tremendous difference.

Here are some goals for you as a legal freelancer in the new year:

1. Educate at least ten new lawyers about the benefits of legal outsourcing by sharing what you do. You can do this at networking events, through marketing brochures, at speaking events, blogging, whatever suits your personality. This may lead directly to new clients for you, but it will also lead to more work opportunities for all freelancers.

2. Encourage a fellow freelancer at least once a month. Freelancing can sometimes be lonely and thankless. Make it a point to reach out directly to at least one fellow freelancer a month (you can find them everywhere now) by phone, email, mention in your blog, or in person. Let them know you support their courage to freelance and ask if you can do anything to help them. You will be amazed at the impact this will have, even on you.

3. Engage in the larger legal community. So often it seems that legal organizations and periodicals cater to only large firms, and that only large firm attorneys serve on boards and committees. Change that. Offer your services. Add your voice to the larger legal policy discussions. Interpreters, translators, paralegals, court reporters, the same applies to you. Get out there and be involved with the professional organizations in your area.

4. Expand your network to the larger outsourcing community. It isn’t just lawyers and paralegals that are going freelance. Interpreters, translators, and court reporters have been doing it for years, and many other professionals are doing the same. You have common interests with them. Check out the Freelancers Union, International Association of Outsourcing Professionals,,, and other organizations. See how you can help. Freelance lawyers, consider developing affordable options for providing legal services to freelancers directly.

Educate, encourage, engage, and expand – and keep us posted on your efforts. Who knows what wonderful things 2010 can hold for all of us!

1 comment:

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