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Frequently Asked Questions

Contract attorneys are not a recent phenomenon. They have been used extensively in a variety of areas, and many experts predict that the use of contract attorneys will increase annually by over 10%.

Are Contract Attorneys Qualified?

Absolutely. Many highly-qualified attorneys become contract attorneys for a variety of reasons. Many contract attorneys were associates or partners in law firms or members of corporate law departments and chose to become corporate attorneys.

Most appreciate the temporary and varied nature of their assignments that allow them to pursue other interests. Some engage in contract work to supplement their own legal work. Others, who have taken time away from work to raise a family or pursue another interest, do contract work so that they can keep their skills sharp.

Is it Ethical to Use Contract Attorneys?

Definitely. The ABA issued a few opinions approving the use of contract attorneys. Remember, contract attorneys are still attorneys, and are subject to the same ethical rules as all attorneys. Thus, it is important that at the beginning of the relationship, the hiring firm and the contract attorney establish that no conflict of interest exists. Also, contract attorneys must preserve client confidences as if they were an attorney employed by the firm. In most cases, a law firm should inform its client that it is using contract attorneys.

The ABA specifically stated that it is not a violation of the Model Rules to pay an attorney placement agency for the provision of contract attorneys. No concrete guidance has been given on how a law firm should bill a client for the use of contract attorneys. However, the ABA's committee on ethics and professional responsibility decided that firms could bill out temporary attorneys at triple the rate they pay the agency. Nevertheless, American Lawyer reported that mark-ups of 100% are more common.* Some law firms simply pass on the actual expense of contract attorneys, but most add some sort of mark-up to provide for overhead and profit.

If you ever have questions regarding the ethics of hiring or charging for a contract attorney, please contact Legal Resources.

Why Would I Use a Contract Attorney?

Many reasons exist to use a contract attorney. The main reason is cost savings. In-house legal departments have long recognized the cost savings realized by using contract attorneys. When legal departments are downsized and legal work increases, retaining a contract attorney for temporary projects, or to cover leaves of absences, is much more efficient than bringing a new attorney on to the payroll.

Law firms have also begun to see the advantage of contract attorneys. Through the use of contract attorneys, small firms can compete for larger projects than they could typically handle, knowing that they can quickly add staff for bigger endeavors. No law firm can ignore the cost savings. Contract attorneys allow law firms to respond to unpredictable increases in workloads in a timely manner. These savings can be passed along to the client. Not only do clients praise this, many now require law firms to use contract attorneys on particular projects.

What Type of Work Can Contract Attorneys Do?

The better question is what type of work they can't do. Examples of projects upon which contract attorneys can work include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Respond to subpoenas
  • Document reviews
  • Privilege Review/Logs
  • Trial Preparation
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Legal research
  • Assistance in substantive legal area outside
    firm's expertise
  • Drafting briefs
  • Drafting position statements
  • Substitute during a leave of absence
  • Bates stamping
  • Survey and title review
  • Closings
  • Depositions
  • Deposition Digesting
  • Due Diligence
  • Indexing
  • Lease abstracting
  • Regulatory filings
  • Your firm took on a project that overburdens its resources
  • Routine court appearances
  • Research arbitration panels
  • Investigations
  • Assisting with corporate filings and other paperwork
  • Contract drafting and review

What If I Don't Have Room for All These Contract Attorneys or the Project on Which They Are Working?

Legal Resources will rapidly assist you in finding the necessary space and equipment needed for your project.

* Triedman, Julie, "Temporary Solution," The American Lawyer, September 1, 2006.

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