Using Contract Lawyers

Contract lawyers can play an essential role in managing workflow. Here are five quick tips from Law Practice Today on using freelancers effectively:

  • Get client consent.
  • Decide whether the contract lawyer will have client contact (if so, this affects the contract lawyer’s liability coverage status in Oregon).
  • Supervise! Overseeing the work of a contract lawyer is your ethical duty. Outsourcing lawyers should also be sensitive to the impression the contract lawyer makes on the client, particularly if they engage in client communication.
  • Beware of potential unauthorized practice of law. Ensure the contract lawyer is licensed to deliver services in the state of the client’s legal issue.
  • Don’t hesitate to bill for the contract lawyer’s services at prevailing market rates. I would add: include this cost (or fee) in your client engagement letter.

If you are considering hiring a contract lawyer (or want to offer your services on a contract basis), check out the following resources from the Professional Liability Fund:

  • Contract Lawyers Checklist
  • Contract Project – Letter of Understanding
  • Contract Project Intake Sheet
  • Independent Contractors or Employees
  • Letter Declining Contract Project

From the PLF home page, select Practice Management > Forms > Contract Lawyering. A number of CLEs are also available under the CLE > Past CLE heading:

  • Contract Lawyers CLE: Conflicts
  • Contract Attorneys: Managing Expectations and Getting Paid
  • Practical Contract Lawyering

To learn about Oregon malpractice coverage for contract lawyers and qualifying for a “supervised attorney” exemption, contact the PLF at 503.639.6911 or 800.452.1639 and ask for Jeff Crawford or Emilee Preble.

The Oregon Women Lawyers operate a Contract Lawyers Listserve for members. To join or use the service, visit the OWLS website.

All Rights Reserved – 2018 – Beverly Michaelis

How to Get the Most Out of Using a Contract Attorney

“The first step in getting the best results from using a contract attorney is to choose the right one (or ones) to hire. Whom do you trust to be competent, fit well within your firm culture, be honest, serve your clients better, and increase your profit?  Once you’ve chosen a contract attorney, the most effective tool for getting the most out of the relationship is to identify and communicate clear expectations.”  (Excerpted from Hiring a Contract Attorney by Heidi Strauch.)

In her full article Heidi addresses the following ethical and practical concerns:

  • How Do I Find a Contract Lawyer I Can Trust?
  • Does the Client Have to Know?
  • What Details Do I Need to Consider For Each Project?
    • Location of Work
    • Scope of Work
    • Access to Client File and to Client
    • Payment and Billing
    • Rate
    • Ethical Considerations
    • Confidentiality and Conflicts
    • Software Compatibility
    • Engagement Letter
  • Additional resources relating to hiring contract attorneys (some of which can be found on the PLF Web site.)

Read this post if you are interested in hiring a contract lawyer or wish to offer contract lawyering services.  The advice applies to both ends of the spectrum.

Remember if you are a contract lawyer claiming an exemption from Professional Liability Fund coverage in Oregon, you must live within the exemption guidelines.  If you are in doubt about how these guidelines work, call our office at 503-639-6911 or 800-452-1639 (toll-free in Oregon).  The guidelines are published on our Web site at the Policies and Forms link under the Primary Coverage heading.  Look for the document entitled “Exemptoin Guidelines: Law Clerk/Supervised Attorney and for Retired or Of Counsel.”

In a nutshell, you may perform legal research and writing without purchasing Professional Liability Fund Coverage, provided:

  • Your work is reviewed and supervised by an attorney with PLF coverage; 
  • You make no strategy or case decisions; 
  • You do not hold yourself out to any client as an attorney; 
  • You sign no pleadings or briefs; 
  • You attend no depositions as the attorney of record; 
  • You make no court appearances as the attorney of record; 
  • You do not use the title “attorney,” “attorney at law,” or “lawyer” on any correspondence or documents; and 
  • You are not listed in the firm name or on the firm letterhead as an attorney or firm member (unless specified as retired). If your are retired, your name may be listed on the firm letterhead as “retired” or “of counsel (retired),” whichever applies. Note that if you are listed on the letterhead in this way, you may be vicariously liable for errors made by other members of the firm under the theory of apparent partnership or partnership by estoppel. The other members of the firm may also be vicariously liable for errors made by you.

For additional considerations, read the complete guidelines.

Copyright 2010 Beverly Michaelis