The way we do law in the United States is changing fast.
Advances in technology such as artificial intelligence mean that over 20% of the work lawyers do can be automated by existing software. Meanwhile, the upheavals caused by the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a major restructure in the legal system, including significant job losses, a substantial increase in remote work, and a rise in investment in legal technology.
Despite recent positive changes, law firms still face significant challenges.
There are still more hearings than there are lawyers to attend them.
Law practices need to scale up their firms and handle an increased workload but struggle to find the time it takes to travel for hearings.
Many practices have turned to contract attorneys to act as appearance counsel, enabling them to take on more cases. Today, more than 50% of all law firms are using contract attorneys.
However, the problem remains – how do you find the best contract attorneys? How will you make sure that contractors you work with are professional, reliable, and timely? How will you make sure that you stay compliant and successful when you’re outsourcing attorney work?
The solution is to use a vendor platform to source contract attorneys who can act as appearance counsel on demand. That way, you’ll always have enough attorneys available to deal with peaks in workload — without breaking your recruitment budget.
However, not all hiring platforms are created equal. Before you choose a per diem attorney vendor platform, you should investigate the provider thoroughly to make sure you’ll get a real return on your investment.
Five Questions to Find the Best Professionals for Court Appearance
1. What is your vetting process for the attorneys that appear on your platform?
You don’t want your team to spend time vetting the attorneys who are provided for on-demand legal appearances. Instead, look for platforms that have a thorough vetting process before they allow contract attorneys to register on their platform.
The best appearance counsels for hire will be found on platforms that offer:
- Malpractice insurance for all listed attorneys
- Good standing checks
- Criminal background checks
- Discipline history checks
- Periodic attorney audits
Ideally, you should also look for a platform that makes sure that all attorneys complete mandatory training, including FDCPA training, as well as any custom training that your law firm might require.
Another good sign is a platform that shows attorneys’ performance metrics. You should be able to view how well each contract attorney has performed when acting as appearance counsel and their success statistics.
2. What compliance controls are in place?
Ensuring compliance can be more challenging when you’re working with freelance attorneys. However, your appearance attorney platform provider should do the heavy lifting for you.
We recommend that you look for a vendor with SOC 2 certification. The SOC 2 audit report evaluates an organization’s information systems to confirm that they are secure, readily available, processed with integrity and can guarantee confidentiality and privacy. If you restrict your search to vendors with SOC 2 certification, you’ll know that your confidential data will be handled with complete compliance.
3. What kind of reporting will my appearance counsel supply?
When you’re hiring a professional for court appearance, you’ll need to make sure that you receive the results of the hearing as quickly as possible. You’d be well-advised to make sure that you only work with a vendor platform that requires all appearance attorneys to deliver a detailed, high-quality report of all hearing events within 24 hours of the hearing.
Additionally, inquire about their format and delivery methods. Platforms should save you time by offering automated reporting features, filtered to accommodate the view you need. Look for vendors that provide standardized reports to eliminate the hassle of searching for information presented in different formats.
4. How do you make sure all your attorneys are prepared for the hearing?
If you’re working with contract attorneys, it’s extremely important to make sure that they are well-prepared in plenty of time before the hearing.
When you choose a platform for sourcing appearance attorneys, you’ll need to make sure that you only work with a vendor who will provide all attorneys with the information they need to offer the best appearance counsel, such as:
- Necessary client contact information
- Any special client instructions
- The relevant prior case history
- Prior hearing results
- A direct line to the attorney of record on the case.
That way, you’ll know that your contract attorney will deliver the best possible representation to the client during the hearing.
5. How will you ensure that every contract attorney will appear at the hearing at the correct time?
When you’re working with contract attorneys, it can be hard to make sure that everyone is in the right place at the right time. However, the right platform can help you to avoid accidental no-shows or late arrivals to the hearing.
Look for a vendor who provides:
- Automated reminders and a calendar application and/or an integration with commonly used online calendars (such as Google Calendar and Outlook) so that all their contract attorneys will receive reminders on their personal calendars;
- Real-time notifications, in case of hearing rescheduling;
- Smart controls to make sure that you can’t accidentally double-book an attorney or schedule them for hearings that are too far apart to reach in a timely manner;
- A strict policy that bans attorneys who fail to appear so that you know you’re only working with the best and most reliable appearance counsel.
The First Step: Ask About Docketly’s Appearance Counsel Platform
For growing law practices, contract appearance attorneys can provide an invaluable support. However, it’s essential to conduct thorough research before you select a vendor platform. Asking the right questions upfront can save your team hours of work and unnecessary stress and expense.
At Docketly, our network of more than 10,000 attorneys are FDCPA trained, experienced, validated for insurance and good standing, and held to a rigorous standard of performance. If you’d like to know more about how we could help your law practice find the best contract attorneys to support your in-house legal team, please click here to schedule a demo.