In a recent article in The Legal Intelligencer, Melanie Klinghoffer and Greg Richter made the case that “project-based” lawyers make a lot of sense for “[m]anaging partners, practice group leaders and others with case management responsibility and hiring leverage who were used to having a deep pool of fungible workers to spin work to.” The article worries along at some length, explaining how LPOs are coming to the rescue of big firms and large corporate legal departments. All true, I’m sure, but I have trouble relating to the practice management problems of firms and departments with hundreds of lawyers.
I do care, however, about solos and small firms. Their problems are real to me because I lived them for 30 years. Irrespective of the disconnect I feel with Big Law, the problem that Klinghoffer and Richter highlight in their article resonates with those of us who practice alone or in small groups. We need to manage costs and improve client services in the face of a declining economy, just like Big Law does.
Solos and small firms are turning to “project-based” lawyers (temps, freelancers, call us whatever name you like) to make this happen. Is it just a passing phase? No chance. Now that retail lawyers (large firms and solo practitioners) are getting a taste for the freedom and cost effectiveness that hiring freelancers can provide, they won’t go back.