8 Questions About Hiring A Contract Lawyer

Filed under: Freelance | Outsourcing | Tags: , |

Guest writer, Corrine A. Tampas, of What’s Your Authority got such a good response, that I have begged her to write another piece on the most common questions asked when hiring a contract lawyer. Corrine was gracious enough to agree:

1. What is the nature of your law practice?

At present, I conduct legal (and taxation) research and writing for other attorneys (and tax professionals). I do not take pro se clients. I do not represent corporations or businesses in transactional matters unless they have an attorney of record with whom they would like me to work.

2. What services do you offer?

Just about anything on the civil side, including tax matters. This includes opinion letters, litigation documents, requests for private letter rulings, and tax appeals. Sometimes an attorney-client wants me to conduct research without drafting a document. It is all based on what is needed.

3. How did you decide that there is a need for this kind of law practice?

I have known too many frazzled solos and small firm practitioners that were simply overworked. Their practices had grown too large for them to do all the research that needed to be done on certain cases, yet had not grown large enough to bring on new hires. This gives a growing firm room to breathe before making a commitment to expand.

4. As hard as it is to believe, there are some lawyers that think court cases are won with oral argument à la Perry Mason instead of written motions. Do you have any comment on that proposition?

Of course, I do! You have to make it to trial first!

I think the days of the Good Ol’ Boys is gone, if it ever existed. I have worked on many cases where the court did not care “to entertain oral argument” on motions. If a lawyer thinks that s/he can slap anything together, and then convince a judge that his or her client’s motion should be granted based on charm, that lawyer needs a reality check.

5. What are the mechanics of working with other lawyers virtually?

Anything is possible with today’s technology. Another lawyer or tax professional either writes me a memorandum of what is needed and sends it to me electronically, or sends me a copy of the client’s file to work collaboratively with the hiring attorney or tax professional.

My research is almost always conducted electronically as I have access to different data bases. When I am finished with a project, which usually includes written a document, I send the document in either Word or WordPerfect so that the hiring attorney can make changes to the document. I also send copies of all cases and statutes I consulted. Attached to each item of research is Shepard’s.

6. Do you charge by the hour or flat fee?

I usually charge by the hour, although I have quoted flat fee pricing on occasion. Lately, I have been quoting an hourly rate with a cap of how many hours I will charge. That way everyone knows that a project cannot exceed a certain cost.

Regardless of my pricing, I never charge for the first hour of a project because I do not think it is fair to charge just to sort out a file and figure out just who the parties are.

7. How do you handle cross jurisdictional matters?

Technically, I am providing a service to my attorney-client which would be no different than if I were sitting in his or her law office conducting legal research and drafting documents. I do not sign pleadings, nor do I represent clients in legal proceedings. Since I provide all research materials upon which I relied, it is up to the hiring attorney-client to review the work.

8. How do you receive payment for your fees?

I accept Paypal which is electronic payment. I like Paypal because I do not have to deal with credit card or checking account numbers. It is also very quick. A while back I sent a client-attorney a statement and he must have been sitting right there at the computer because he paid me within a minute. I have been really lucky since I have never really had any collection issues. I also accept checks by snail mail.