In recent years, law firms have made it a key business priority to reduce costs, both their own and, in turn, those that are passed on to clients. At their clients' insistence, law firms are embracing the better, faster, cheaper mantra of other types of businesses.
And cheaper is no longer a dirty word in the legal lexicon. Instead, it's representative of a savvier approach to law firm management.
In this quest to deliver more cost-effective legal services, law firms are increasing their reliance on flexible staffing. By partnering with a specialized legal recruiter, law firms can access highly skilled legal professionals, including lawyers, paralegals and eDiscovery experts, on an interim basis.
Because the legal profession is so project-driven, a flexible staffing approach is ideal and can help law firms save money. Here are five examples:
1. Staff up or down. A mix of core staff and interim professionals provides law firms with the flexibility to add or reduce staff as needed, at less cost than a workforce comprised entirely of full-time employees. This strategy also makes it less likely that law firms will make the mistake of overhiring in response to a sudden upturn in workloads, only to have to reduce headcount later if business conditions or priorities change significantly.
2. Tap into specialized talent. Bringing in legal project professionals with proven abilities provides immediate access to skilled talent as needed. Again, this approach eliminates the need to obtain these skills on a full-time basis.
3. Meet short-term needs. Many legal projects and cases require additional personnel for brief periods of intensive work but may not justify hiring full-time employees. Specialized project teams can help law firms address short-term initiatives related to document reviews, litigation support and eDiscovery initiatives.
4. Address 'billable hours' concerns. With clients insisting on flexible billing options and more predictable pricing, law firms are reconsidering how they staff projects to get the most cost-effective results. With this goal in mind, law firms and their corporate clients sometimes agree to outsource a certain amount of work or type of case to project attorneys and support professionals in an effort to keep legal costs in check.
5. Improve full-time hiring efforts. When a firm does need to hire full-time professionals, one way to identify them and assess their skills before extending an offer is through a temporary-to-hire arrangement. Having the opportunity to work with legal professionals and evaluate their qualifications and fit with the corporate culture before hiring them full time typically improves hiring success and may reduce recruiting costs.
As law firms face continued pressure to deliver quality legal services while offering more transparent and flexible legal fees, the reliance on flexible staffing is likely to be a trend with staying power. This staffing approach allows law firms to continue to deliver on expectations in a way that benefits their businesses and their clients.