November 2017

Lawyers Going Digital: 4 Surprising Ways Law Firms Can Benefit From Project Work

The “gig economy” has been a hot topic in recent years thanks to its steady growth. In fact, freelance work—which fuels this growth—is adding $715 billion annually to the economy. And it’s no wonder the gig economy is on the rise, because it’s equally as beneficial for employers as it is for workers.

It seems as though nearly every industry has figured out a way to tap into this new way of working, even the industries that don’t seem suited for it right off the bat—for example, the medical industry.

Gone are the days where you have to hunt down your doctor just to ask a simple question. Thanks to technology and the gig economy, you can talk to a doctor any time, any day, while catching up on your favorite television show.

So, this begs the question… If doctors have gone digital, why haven’t lawyers?

There are few industries that aren’t taking advantage of technology and the gig economy, and the legal industry is one of them. This is where something called “project work” comes into play.

Project work brings the legal industry to the gig economy, changing the way we practice law today.

Not only will it create tons of new jobs for emerging lawyers, but it will also allow seasoned lawyers to grow their practice much more quickly and efficiently. That’s what we’re going to talk about right now.

Grow your practice with project work

Frequent uses of words such as “cost-effective” and “alternative fee structures” reflect just some of the ways law firms try to compete for business. However, rather than struggle to compete, there needs to be a scalable way for firms to not only get work done, but also grow their practices in the process.

Yes, you read that right—get work done AND grow your practice. I know you’re thinking that seems just about as unrealistic as time travel, and at one point it was. But that’s no longer the case, thanks to technology. And it’s about time lawyers’ start using technology to their advantage.

So, how does project work benefit a lawyer and his or her law firm? Well, the changing nature of the profession has left many firms struggling to maintain their status quo, let alone achieve any sort of growth. However, growth for firms is no longer limited to just when there’s a lot of work.

Project work can help firms of all sizes achieve growth in a wide variety of business circumstances by focusing on how the work gets done, instead of just focusing exclusively on cost.

Below are four ways in which project work provides scalability for law firms.

1) Developing practice areas

Some firms would like to expand a particular practice area, but haven’t been able to do so. Instead of the capacity of practice areas being limited by the number of lawyers (employees) working in those practice areas, project work can be utilized to increase the workload capacity in a practice area without needing to hire more lawyers as employees.

Project work helps firms manage more work, rather than relinquishing work opportunities due to a lack of lawyers. This allows firms to sufficiently staff practice areas according to fluctuating workloads. That means more clients, and more clients means more revenue.

Over time, utilizing project work for developing a practice area could result in a firm generating enough additional revenue to justify hiring a new lawyer (perhaps a project lawyer who previously worked for the firm).

Firms can continue using project work in order to build practice areas steadily over time, while simultaneously achieving practice area growth in the process.

2) New firms

At the outset, new firms usually don’t have a sufficient and predictable business to rely on, which makes it difficult to even think about practice development. Yet, practice development is essential for new firms.

The problem? Entrepreneurial lawyers starting their own firms face a number of challenges. The solution? Project work.

Staffing issue

When a new matter arises, a new firm may not have enough lawyers to do the required work. Yet, many new firms usually can’t afford to hire more lawyers as employees. These issues can result in new firms only being able to work on small matters, which can significantly inhibit growth.

New firms can work on matters exceeding their lawyer (employee) staffing levels by simply hiring on a project basis. With project work, there are no additional expenses, such as overhead.

As a result, new firms can hire lawyers at lower costs, which can thereby increase revenue. New firms can then use that revenue for other important areas of their developing practices, which they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.

Office space issue

New firms might also lack office space. However, because project work can be done remotely, new firms can still grow their practices despite lacking office space. On top of that, additional office space means an additional expense. With project work, the only thing you’re paying for is the person doing the work.

Work/life balance

Also, many new firms are being started by millennial lawyers who care very much about work/life balance. In fact, millennial lawyers might have started their own firms, in part, for that very reason.

Millennial lawyers starting their own firms want time for things other than work, but starting a new firm requires a lot of work. Project work provides entrepreneurial lawyers managing their own firms with opportunities to use their time in other ways, such as for business development, while work continues to get done for their firms.

3) Prospective retirement

For lawyers considering partial retirement, there haven’t been many ways to effectively help with the transition phase from full-time to part-time practice.

Many lawyers seeking partial retirement may want to keep their practices going strong at the same full-time level, but finding lawyers to make that happen can be very difficult. Project work provides the necessary scalability that these lawyers need to confidently retire.

With project work, a partially retired lawyer can have as much work completed by project lawyers as they want to at any given time. Therefore, partially retired lawyers have the flexibility to work as much or as little as they want to, while their firms continue to generate revenue. Our blog article A New Approach to Exit and Monetize the Small or Solo Law Practice goes into more detail about the benefits of a lawyer marketplace for lawyers looking to retire.

So enjoy taking more time off from work, while work keeps getting done for you!

4) Managing overflow work

Overflow work requires a scalable solution because there’s additional work to be done, even if only temporarily.

Firms that have an overflow of work and not enough support lack time for working on other important business matters, such as practice development. Having the already-busy employee lawyers do all of the overflow work in addition to their regular work inhibits growth.

By utilizing project work when overflow work arises, firms can sufficiently staff their overflow work with project lawyers, which allows the employee lawyers to do their regular work. Doing so allows firms to get all of their work done for clients more quickly and efficiently. And happy clients increase the chances of client retention.

This is a scalable solution to overflow work because whenever overflow work arises, project lawyers can easily be hired for the sole purpose of completing that work. With project work, overflow work is a good thing!

Final thought

Project work is an effective way to more easily achieve growth in a competitive market for new and established firms. The flexibility of project work makes it a scalable solution that can be used on an as-needed basis, which helps firms get work done more cost-effectively.

It’s a winning solution that provides firms with new opportunities to develop, grow, and eventually exit their practice.


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