By Melody A. Kramer, Esq.
A significant percentage of law firms with 50+ lawyers “expressed a growing enthusiasm for contract lawyers” according to a Weil Altman survey but still are cool towards “outsourcing.” According to their 2010 Law Firms In Transition report, in 2009, 39% of law firms reported “using contract lawyers,” a number increased to 53% for 2010. However, the same report cites “less than 10% of firms outsourced or offshored legal work” in 2009 or 2010. Nowhere does the article explain what the survey respondents meant by “contract lawyers” or “outsourcing.”
“Outsourcing” refers to having non-employees perform functions for your business. Thus, if a law firm seeks out “contract lawyers” via an employment agency or a self-employed freelance lawyer to perform work for them, they are “outsourcing” work.
“Outsourcing” is not synonymous with “offshoring” in which persons outside of the country’s territorial borders are performing work for U.S. law firms.
This continued confusion about the nature of outsourcing, contract attorneys working for employment agencies, and freelance attorneys working for themselves still pervades the legal profession, hampering meaningful discussions and actions. For additional explanation, see the response to a Call for Comments by the ABA on Outsourcing provided by the National Association of Freelance Legal Professionals and freelance attorney Lisa Solomon.