Greg Garman is the CEO of Law Clerk and a partner at Garman Turner Gordon. Mr. Garman is a...
Adriana Linares is a law practice consultant and legal technology coach. After several years at two of Florida’s largest...
If you’ve ever wondered about using freelance lawyers and the process involved, this may be the episode for you. In this episode of New Solo, host Adriana Linares talks to Greg Garman about New Solo’s new sponsor Lawclerk and what it offers to solo and small firm lawyers. They discuss how posting and responding to projects works within Lawclerk and address common ethical and practical questions lawyers have about using the site.
Greg Garman is the CEO of Law Clerk and a partner at Garman Turner Gordon.
How Freelance Lawyering Works
Intro: So you are an attorney and you have decided to go out on your own, now what? You need a plan and you are not alone. Join expert host Adriana Linares and her distinguished guests on New Solo. Tune into the lively conversation as they share insights and information about how to successfully run your law firm, here on Legal Talk Network.
Adriana Linares: All right, it’s time for another episode of New Solo on Legal Talk Network. Thanks for tuning in and listening. I am Adriana Linares. I am your host and I am a legal technology and trainer. I have been moving about the country for the past 20 years, helping lawyers and law firms use technology better and have had the pleasure of hosting this podcast for, I don’t know, it’s been maybe two or three years now.
So I am excited about today’s episode. We are actually going to have a quick talk with one of our new sponsors, and I am excited to learn about their services and I think you will be interested in hearing more about it too.
But before I do that, I am going to read a couple of ads from our sponsors, including LAWCLERK, who we will talk to in just a few minutes.
Let’s start with Answer1. It’s a leading virtual receptionist and answering service provider for lawyers. You can find out more by giving them a call at 800 Answer1 or online at answer1.com.
We want to make sure and thank our sponsor Clio. They are a cloud-based practice management software that makes it easy to manage your law firm from intake to invoice. Try it for free at clio.com.
Unbundled Attorney is a premium lead generation service that delivers exclusive leads directly into your Inbox in real-time. Looking to get more leads and grow your practice, visit unbundledattorney.com today.
And last, but not least, there is LAWCLERK, who we are actually talking to today and LAWCLERK is where attorneys hire freelance lawyers. There are no sign up or monthly fees, only pay the flat fee price you set. Increase your profits, not your overhead. Learn more at lawclerk.legal.
It must have been a lucky day today because we do have Greg Garman, who is going to talk to us about LAWCLERK in a few minutes and he gave us a rebate code. So if you are interested in learning more about LAWCLERK, make sure you check it out, and if you decide to take on a project, you will get $300 back after that first project is complete, if you enter the code New Solo 300 in the rebate input box.
And now let’s talk to Greg. Hey Greg, are you there?
Greg Garman: Good morning Adriana. Thanks for having me.
Adriana Linares: Oh, I am so glad we found the time. Before I ask you to tell us a little bit about yourself, I just want to say, so you are in Las Vegas and I think I spend a lot of time in New Orleans and I live part-time in New Orleans, and I find that when I meet people and I say I am from New Orleans, they go oh, that’s a whole subject of — that’s a whole segue way to tons of conversations about New Orleans, and I think Las Vegas, you must get the exact same type of reaction.
Greg Garman: Yeah. So in addition to being a Co-Founder of LAWCLERK, I was a practicing lawyer for 20 years and anytime you say you are a Co-Founder of a tech startup or a lawyer from Las Vegas, I think people are a bit surprised.
Adriana Linares: Right, that’s awesome. And are you from Las Vegas? Have you been there your whole life?
Greg Garman: I am. I was born in Las Vegas. My grandparents actually moved to Nevada in the 50s and it’s been quite a change over the last I guess four or five decades.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, for sure. Well, I always enjoy it when I am there and I am sure other people do.
So you practiced law for 20 years and are you still practicing law or is all your time dedicated to LAWCLERK?
Greg Garman: I can’t say it’s a 100% dedicated to LAWCLERK yet, but it’s getting to be more and more. I was a practicing lawyer, including a managing partner of a firm of nearly 100 attorneys, before I decided that the smaller firm was a better environment for work-life balance, better business model, better all the way around.
And so three years ago I left and took a small team to open a boutique, mainly restructuring Chapter 11 restructuring practice here in Las Vegas. And that’s actually where LAWCLERK came from. I was used to having all the resources I needed. I was used to having a tax lawyer, a securities lawyer, and when I opened up a smaller boutique shop, I didn’t have them on the full-time staff and that actually was the idea of where we created the marketplace and applied technology to the gig economy for freelance lawyers, and that’s actually how we got started.
Adriana Linares: Well, that’s a great story about finding a need that you had and then actually filling it or identifying a need that you had and actually filling it as opposed to waiting for someone else to get to work on that.
So it sounds like you picked up a Co-Founder or two?
Greg Garman: So two of my Co-Founders are a couple of the lawyers who I was formerly partners with that we actually opened our boutique firm with. And so we left, we opened up this firm, it had been great. We came up with this idea. We spent more than a year in development to ensure compliance with the ethical rules and each state’s rules. And then we launched in January, yeah, we launched in January of this year and we are off to a great start.
Adriana Linares: That’s great. So one of my biggest pet peeves and it’s not even that big, because most of my pet peeves are, I guess that’s the point of a pet peeve is they kind of aren’t that big. So is companies that get started or services that get started by someone or someone who haven’t actually practiced law and then try to talk to me who, by the way, has also not practiced law, but I spent a lot of time actually inside of law firms, telling me how lawyers practice law, but yet they have never practiced law.
So maybe they are fresh out of law school or they are just somebody — another startup who saw a hole and decided to try and fill it. And believe me, there’s great services of course started by many people who have never actually practiced law. But I certainly have an affinity toward services like yours or folks like you, who actually dug themselves out of the trenches and understand what it’s really like to need this kind of help. So anyway, yeah, I really appreciate that.
Greg Garman: Yeah. So the business of law and the practice of law are two things that both need to be managed. And legal services, I think are about 2% of the US economy right now. And by all accounts, it seems to be the biggest piece of the US economy that hasn’t been touched by technology in a way that alters the business model.
We have tons of great technology that have been given to us to apply to our practices, but we haven’t changed the business model, and I have long believed that the reason that hasn’t happened is because of the complexity of the ethical rules that we govern ourselves by.
And I agree with you. I think it’s really hard for someone graduating from Stanford who is 25 years old to understand the nuances of the ethical rules and really give us the technology we need. And so I had the luxury of not only practicing law, but building a regional law firm that, for good or bad, required me to focus on the business of law as much as anything, and but for that experience, I don’t know if we would be where we are today with LAWCLERK.
Adriana Linares: Yeah. Well, let’s spend a few more minutes talking about LAWCLERK itself and then after we take a break, let’s talk about those ethics, issues, and the sort of questions that you hear, and I really want listeners to understand what hiring a freelance lawyer is like and why you would consider it and how you can do it all within the confines of meeting all of your ethical and professional responsibilities.
So as I was reading the sponsor ad just now I said in my head the line that says there are no sign up or monthly fees. Okay, that’s clear. Only pay the flat fee price you set. In my mind, I was like oh, I am totally going to ask Greg. Come on Greg, what do you mean only pay the flat free price that you set? How does this service work?
Greg Garman: So the way we work is that the concept of a contract lawyer has been around for decades and big law has used it quite successfully with large projects that come in, but it hasn’t really been available for general practitioners, solos and smalls. And we have long had the ability to hire through staffing companies and the like and they tell you what the hourly rate is going to be and that becomes part of your overhead and you have to keep those contract lawyers busy.
But what we build at LAWCLERK is the marketplace in which you as a practicing attorney can say I need a nondisclosure agreement prepared and I am willing to pay $300 for it. That then goes out into the marketplace of our freelance lawyers, which are more than a thousand. They receive text messages or emails when a project comes in that says this is the project, this is how much it pays and they apply to work with you as the attorney who posted the project.
And so you review résumés, you review writing samples. You review previous reviews of the attorneys who have worked with the freelance lawyers on the marketplace before. You decide who you want to work with and that $300 project, that $500 project, however you defined it, is all you pay. We take a small commission off the transaction. And obviously as a marketplace, you are going to get a different quality of applicant if you post a project for $75 versus $1,000.
Adriana Linares: Sure. And from the freelancer’s side, when they get notified that a job has been posted, I am going to assume that somewhere they have created a profile that says, well, these are the areas of law I will practice in or I will work in or for or these are the types of projects I will take.
Greg Garman: Yeah, absolutely. So when a freelancer signs up, we confirm their credentials, we confirm that they are lawyers obviously. We have gotten a copy of evidence that they graduated from law school, we do all those things. But then they identify the few discrete areas in which their freelance practice has an emphasis and we have everything from discrete freelance lawyers who do things like admiralty law, to litigation practitioners.
And so when a project is posted to the site, that message goes out to the applicable group of freelance lawyers and our experience is that within a half hour to an hour, most projects have at least 10 applicants who have applied for it. Their profile is then on the attorney’s dashboard to review, again, the information as to who they want to work with and we have had people who needed projects completed the same day and obviously we have had people who had timelines of 30 or 45 days for an appellate brief and have the luxury of more time.
So as a marketplace, we are trying to make a wide pool of freelance lawyers available to the attorneys who post a project and act as an intermediary. And so in the last couple of months we have had projects as small as demand letters, to as sophisticated as US Supreme Court briefs come through the site.
Adriana Linares: That’s great. So last couple of things I will just ask you about the service, which I really came into the conversation just thinking about encouraging lawyers to consider getting that help when they need it, and I know so many of them that do, but now I am thinking it’s just an opportunity too for lawyers who might be looking for some supplemental income.
So tell me a little bit more about being the freelancer as opposed to being the hirer, if there is anything kind of nuanced or cool or special or something, a story that is interesting from that angle, because I really hadn’t thought about that till now.
Greg Garman: So a couple of interesting things we have found is that, first of all, the quality of the freelance lawyers is really high. It actually surprised us in that we have everybody from law school professors who have some extra time on their hand during the summer, to retired — we have retired Am Law 100 partners who just sort of want to stay in the game even though the money might not be important to them, to obviously we have young lawyers.
But the sweet spot really is there is a whole pool of parents who found that, for instance, raising children is incompatible with the full-time practice of law at a big firm. That makes up a big piece. We have hundreds and hundreds of freelance lawyers like that.
We have military spouses who have to move around every single year or two, which prohibits them from taking a Bar exam and building a client base in every state that they go to and we candidly have everybody in between.
And on the issue of which side of the equation you go on, we have small firms that when their practice is busy, they post projects and they need an extra set of hands to either help them with the ebbs and flows of the practice, or they have something that’s a bit outside of the area of law that they want to take a first draft at. And then when times get slow we see that those same folks who are starting practices will be on the working side, and so we have found that there is balance and some symmetry to our user base.
Adriana Linares: That’s very cool. That’s great. Very interesting. So it’s a great service, again, like you just said from either side of the equation for people to learn more about. So I am assuming, if you are interested in doing the freelance work, you can go to lawclerk.legal and there is probably going to be a button that says, be a freelancer.
Greg Garman: When you sign up, you either identify that you want to hire or you want to work and you can sign up to do both.
Adriana Linares: Oh, that’s very cool. Well, excellent. We are going to take a quick break, listen to a couple of messages from some sponsors, and when we come back, I am going to ask you about how you manage the unlicensed practice of law issues that might come up if you have got a LAWCLERK freelancer in one state looking to do some work for a project that was posted in another state and maybe they are not licensed there and some of those other issues that I am sure you must hear every single day.
So we will talk about those as soon as we come back from this quick break.
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Adriana Linares: All right, welcome back everyone. I am Adriana Linares. You are listening to New Solo. I am talking to Greg Garman about Lawclerk.Legal, one of the sponsors of the show, which I was happy to have come on and talk to us about what Lawclerk.Legal does, which is provide freelance lawyer work on either side of the equation. And we are going to learn a little bit more about that and specifically let Greg talk to us about the frequently asked questions that you get from either side.
Let’s start with hiring attorneys who are concerned about any ethical considerations in hiring freelance lawyers and how they manage those expectations, and obviously you almost have done a bunch of due diligence and research in building this service, so we’re curious to learn more.
Greg Garman: Yeah. So, before we launched — obviously I’m a practicing lawyer and as are my co-founders and we understand the importance of the professional rules not only from our own practice but in protecting clients at the end of the day. And so the limitations that have been put on lawyers have generally made us State-specific, the general purpose of passing the Bar exam to provide legal services; and candidly, that’s the secret sauce of what we did. We spent a year which for sort of the tech enthusiast amounted to 14,000 development hours of programmers building the site around the ethical rules to ensure compliance for the attorneys who work on it.
And we’re called LAWCLERK because technically the freelance lawyers who are providing the services are acting as a paraprofessional and so from the Supreme Court in the Jenkins’ case all the way down to virtually every State’s commentary on the model rules, particularly Model Rules 5.3 and 5.5, they all encourage the use of paralegals, they all encourage the use of the lowest qualified person doing the services as long as the responsibility at the end of the day is between a licensed lawyer in that jurisdiction and their client and licensed lawyer and opposing counsel and the licensed lawyer and the judge.
And so the limitations on this front that we’ve placed are when you work with the freelance lawyer we prohibit you and you have to acknowledge that you won’t let them go to court. You don’t let them go to a deposition. You won’t let them call the opposing counsel, and most importantly, you won’t let them talk to the client, is provided that you limit what the freelance lawyer is doing two things that don’t constitute the practice of law has been defined by the model rules each State and the case law, they’re essentially acting as really, really skilled paralegals.
And so, the same way that we walk down the hall and give to a paralegal a basis to start a document for us or to start getting the documents together for discovery, is exactly the same way that LAWCLERK works just that paralegal can be replaced by any level and experience of actually practicing licensed lawyer.
Adriana Linares: That’s excellent, and so again, whether you’re the freelancer or the hiring attorney this pretty much addresses all the issues on both sides.
Greg Garman: Yeah, and so sometimes when you have a project, you need somebody in Florida or Texas or wherever you are located to be familiar with State law and that’s oftentimes, perhaps most of the time what happens on LAWCLERK. But there are practices like my practice under the Bankruptcy Code or whether it be IP trade, those things are national in nature and so you don’t need somebody who’s in your State. And candidly, much research, legal research doesn’t require any specific knowledge of a particular State when you start out.
Adriana Linares: All right, well, excellent. So, check, we’ve covered that.
Greg Garman: And just to add to that. For those who are interested we actually have a 100-page whitepaper, that’s a 50-State survey that we did that can be found on our website, and so we literally reviewed and cite to every opinion, every commentary, every decision that has come up, and so, if you have questions about your individual State you can find it on a whitepaper or we get those calls all the time and 99% of the time lawyers get comfortable with the research we’ve done in the marketplace.
Adriana Linares: Right. Well, like you said before it’s just been happening for a long time, nothing new Under the Sun, but I think again as a startup or a new company getting those concerns, protests and issues out front and just knocking those right out of the way is obviously such a good idea and so helpful. What are some of the other questions or protests that you hear that you could help us understand in case someone listening is really interested but now they’ve got other reservations or questions, what do you typically hear from your end?
Greg Garman: Hands down the question we get the most is I don’t know how to price a project. We lawyers are comfortable living in a world of hourly billing and sometimes flat fee in it, but people don’t know how to price a project, and so what we tell people is that the old business model of a lawyer who used associates was, one-third of that revenue goes to the associate’s compensation, one-third goes to the overhead that it costs to keep them employed, and one-third is the profit; and with LAWCLERK you don’t have the overhead component.
And so what we recommend people to do is — obviously do what’s appropriate, but we recommend that as a starting point you figure out what it would cost in billable time or what you would charge a client for the services and then post the project at about 35% of that number and that leaves plenty of margin for profit because that is permitted under the ethical rules and even the Supreme Court decisions and it does away with the overhead component because these are freelancers and it actually allows you to increase your profit margin without increasing overhead and actually lowering the cost of legal services to the client, because there is no overhead component that is consumed in the process.
Adriana Linares: Excellent. I really love on this show trying to give very specific answers to the questions of lawyers, old, new, revived, that they think about and they talk about, so that’s very helpful. Is there anything else that you know someone listening to this is thinking?
Greg Garman: We get the question all the time, can I work with the same people, do I have to use somebody different, are you finding the people to work with us? And the answer to that is, you have complete flexibility.
So what most of our users do is they find a small team of freelance lawyers to work with, somebody who knows litigation, somebody who knows contract law, somebody who knows real estate, and they work with them from time-to-time, but when they work with them on a regular basis, they essentially build that team.
We get the question all the time, isn’t this a cost that I’m prohibited from marking up to pass along to my client, how can I make a profit on this? And the answer is that, again, even from the Supreme Court in Missouri v. Jenkins is sort of the controlling law on this. The legal system encourages the use of paralegals, even contract paralegals permitting market rate billing and so there is a bit of a nuance in a couple of states, and again, we’ve laid that out, but you can absolutely pay a contract freelance lawyer and have a markup the same way that you can have a markup for the employees who are full-time employees on your payroll, or on your overhead. The analysis is the same and you don’t lose revenue by hiring a freelance lawyer because you don’t turn what was profitable work into simply a pass-through; that question is asked of us all the time.
And we have hundreds of attorneys who are now building business models around a lower overhead, lower cost use of freelance lawyers.
Adriana Linares: That sounds like a really interesting maybe not even new model but some different way of thinking about how to run your solo, new or small practice.
Let’s talk a little bit more about that when we get back from another quick break. We’ll be right back.
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Adriana Linares: All right, we are back. I am Adriana Linares. I’m talking to Greg Garman of Lawclerk.Legal, and when we left off we had covered the ethical issues or concerns and addressed those insofar as hiring a freelance attorney to help you with your practice whether it’s someone that you like and find in the marketplace and hire over-and-over again or if your needs vary, being able to select from a talent pool that is vast and deep and getting that help that you need, and also talked about how to price that, which of course is always going to be a concern, a question especially for new lawyers.
So, I guess, the question that begs itself is, how do I build this concept into my actual business model for my law practice as opposed to just willy-nilly every once in a while hiring somebody. I mean, Greg, what are you learning from your clients and your freelancers that you would give as advice if someone says, well, that’s a really interesting way for me to have more of a virtual small law firm as opposed to being a true solo?
Greg Garman: Yeah, so it comes first from my personal experience, which is I was at a law firm with a lot of lawyers and I decided to open a boutique and it was the best decision I ever made, for work-life purposes, cutting down on the overhead, I make more money than I did at a bigger shop and the reason is that the business model is better as a solo or small firm or a boutique.
Having said that you give something up and what you give up is some potential leverage of associates, of counsel or paralegals who work for you and to having resources in specialty areas.
And so, stating the obvious there’s an oversupply of attorneys in the country and the supply demand curve is working against us as professionals, as practicing lawyers and so the way we’ve seen users of LAWCLERK successfully make their business model better is that you can find subject matter expertise of people who can produce in specialty areas.
If you need a non-disclosure agreement instead of going back and digging through your forms from years ago or starting from scratch, finding somebody who practices in that area of law on a daily basis, who has cutting-edge forms, who knows what the issues are, who knows what the issues with medical non-disclosure agreements are, they can produce faster, cheaper than a solo or a small firm can do.
And so, leveraging the subject-matter expertise of the freelance lawyers in the world is a great starting point for efficiency. But equally as important is that this business has been built upon busy lawyers who have a book of business, who are essentially solo or small firms because they can produce clients, they are rainmakers, the ability to leverage freelance lawyers and make a profit on their time, there are only so many hours a day, this is a business in which we can only sell so much of our individual time, but there is a business model we’ve been working with for hundreds of years now of leveraging the time of other skilled lawyers is something that we’ve seen a lot of success in hiring freelance lawyers in our marketplace or from other places.
Adriana Linares: Tell me a little bit about how this might help solo or small firms who are in litigation and are thinking about how they can make discovery affordable for their clients and maybe a lawyer who isn’t that familiar with discovery, e-discovery, I think that seems like it would be an excellent place to use freelance lawyers.
Greg Garman: So, about half of the projects that go up in the marketplace are litigation-driven, and so litigation is the biggest piece, but that makes sense and that it’s actually the biggest piece of legal services industry, but oftentimes what we’re seeing is that lawyers will get a document dumped on them, they will get 50,000 pages or a 100,000 pages and we have freelance lawyers who literally without hyperbole the only thing they want to do is document review. They are skilled at it, they are efficient at it, they like it, they have built their systems at home with multiple screens to manage it.
And so, we’ve had a lot of, for instance, document reviews, where the project will be posted to go through 20,000 pages and the project will be posted at $2,000, and the freelance lawyers will go through the documents, they will review the instructions that the attorney puts together, they will pull the hot documents, they will tag them, whatever is needed to be done.
And then one thing we haven’t covered is that at the end of every project a requirement of the freelance lawyer is that they produce and submit their time, and so time sheets are given, it’s reviewed, it’s billed, we’re appropriate, but I would say probably a fifth of the projects that are going through the site right now are either responding to discovery, preparing interrogatories and document request or actually doing the substantive document reviews for litigation.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, that’s excellent. That’s obviously very helpful. Again, for those lawyers who — in my world I get a lot of lawyers who maybe having gone through some sort of professional discovery training where they become efficient or they can’t afford to pay for some of the software which while it’s becoming more affordable with cloud-based review services, maybe it’s not worth it for them to get into all that for the one or two cases a year where that need comes up. So that’s really great.
Greg Garman: So, Adriana, if I might add to that, so we have a couple of different types of users we see on a regular basis and I think the interesting thing that we see is that some users just need an extra set of hands when the ebbs and flows of being a solo or small firm attorney is — sometimes there’s too much work and you just need a little bit of help getting the work off your desk.
But sometimes it’s that that client comes in the door and they need a lease, and yeah, you’re qualified and can do it, but you’d have to start from scratch and you don’t want to send them down the street to some other lawyer; and so, you leverage the specialization that the freelance lawyers have, and so sometimes what we’re seeing is that lawyers just simply need an extra set of hands in their primary practice, but what we’re also seeing is that when the client comes through the door on something that the attorney could do or is comfortable doing but they just want to outsource it for that first draft, for that first 85% of the document, it makes sense from a business perspective to do that.
Adriana Linares: That’s great. I love the sound of all of this. I’m going to start talking about this, Greg.
Greg Garman: We love that.
Adriana Linares: I’m going to put this in my regular rotation of ways to make lives easier on solos and smalls. So, it’s been really helpful, really nice chatting with you. Of course, I really appreciate you sponsoring the podcast and helping keep it alive. So, I just wanted to make sure and give you a chance before I let you go to let everyone know where they can find friend or follow either you or LAWCLERK and learn more about it through social media.
Greg Garman: So, you can find us on the web at lawclerk.legal or you can find us on Twitter @lawclerklegal and on Facebook, we’re at lawclerk.legal.
Adriana Linares: Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Greg. I really appreciate your time. I hope you are enjoying the summer out there in Las Vegas. I’m enjoying my summer switching between the nice steamy hot south and trips out to San Diego every once in a while; so it’s been really nice having you.
I’m sure I will see you again at a conference real soon you and I ran into each other a couple weeks ago at the Florida Bar Annual Convention and just didn’t have time to record them, so, I really appreciate your time doing it now.
Greg Garman: Adriana, I am a long-time listener of the show and a big fan, and so, thank you so much for having us on. We appreciate it a lot, and keep up the good work.
Adriana Linares: Thanks, we really appreciate the information.
Thanks everyone for listening to another episode of New Solo on Legal Talk Network. If you like what you’ve heard, make sure you subscribed. I’d really appreciate a review on iTunes. If you have a moment to do that, that would be great.
And remember, you’re not alone, you’re a New Solo.
Outro: Thanks for listening to New Solo with host Adriana Linares. Tune in again to learn more about how to successfully run your new practice, solo, here on Legal Talk Network.
The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
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