The past couple of years have changed how business is conducted across nearly every profession, and the legal landscape has been no exception. People are beginning to rethink whether a 9-to-5 office job is the right fit for them and many are opting to strike out on their own, working as independent contractors to have more flexibility in their lives. This means that many individuals have begun testing the waters as freelance attorneys.
The concept of freelance attorneys is nothing new. Law firms are well-accustomed to hiring project-based help to assist with document review and some of the more mundane tasks of legal practice. More recently, law firms are being more strategic in their use of external help, contributing to the growth of the appearance attorney market. Many firms are realizing the benefits of working with contracted licensed attorneys to efficiently file documents at a courthouse or make brief appearances before a judge. Use of appearance attorneys in this way can reduce travel demands on firms and help them focus on areas of greater strategic importance to their business.
When seeking a freelance appearance attorney, firms should ask themselves several questions: How can you know that the attorney will be up to meeting the requisite challenges for the particular location and type of project? Will the contracted attorney be in good standing with their state’s bar? Will the attorney have the level of experience needed? These are all important questions to ask, and the answers you receive will depend largely on whether you use a hiring platform to work with an appearance attorney or an attorney referral service.
An Appearance Attorney Vetting Process and Built-in Safeguards
Any potential benefits your firm may hope to achieve by using an appearance attorney could be swiftly wiped out if the attorney doesn’t understand how to handle court proceedings or how to properly file documents in the jurisdiction where the case is taking place. Sometimes an attorney referral service website may seem professional, but that’s not enough to ensure you’ll receive adequate support.
Instead, discerning law firms should dig into background a bit more. Unlike most referral services, a well-regarded hiring platform will thoroughly vet all of the attorneys who use the platform and provide transparency around an attorney’s background. For example, Docketly, the platform used by more than 10,000 appearance attorneys nationwide, actively monitors attorney performance and stays on top of compliance requirements. Hiring firms using the platform are even able to view performance of individual attorneys at a micro level, reviewing a particular appearance attorney’s Mean Time to Report, for example.
Also consider the presence of safeguards in any arrangement. Attorney referral services tend to be less invested in longevity of relationships. Whereas a hiring platform may provide built-in protections for its users. For example, Docketly provides background checks for its appearance attorneys. These checks look for financial crimes in the last 7 years (or further where state law allows) and are automatically renewed every year. Firms can choose to work with only attorneys who passed the background check.
Another consideration is malpractice coverage. Some hiring platforms provide attorneys on their platform with malpractice insurance. Presence of umbrella malpractice insurance helps the hiring firm rest easy knowing they will be shielded should another party threaten a lawsuit against an appearance attorney working on their behalf.
Determination of Good Standing of the Appearance Attorney
When you use an appearance attorney, you’re trusting them to represent your firm and putting the reputation of your law firm on the line. The last thing you want to discover is that the freelance attorney whom you’ve entrusted your sensitive legal information to is under investigation by their state bar or has a track record of unethical behavior.
When you’re going through a possibly fly-by-night attorney referral service, you may not know whether the appearance attorney is in good standing. Of course, you could take the time to investigate the attorney’s standing on your own, but doing so will eat up time you had hoped to save by using an appearance attorney in the first place. Not to mention, a background check is out of the question if you need an appearance attorney to handle a matter quickly.
A reputable hiring platform will have already done this type of work for you. A hiring platform will take the time to vet an attorney’s background before allowing them to post their services on their site—and will have ongoing processes to ensure information remains current. An attorney referral service may not be as thorough.
Level of Experience of the Appearance Attorney
Often, law firms are reluctant to use appearance attorneys because they have concerns about how much experience the lawyer has. You probably don’t want someone who has just passed the bar handling certain aspects of your firm’s case, especially if it’s a more niche, complicated area of the law.
When using an attorney referral service, those concerns may be well-founded. A freelance attorney may embellish their years and type of experience that they possess. Law firms should definitely be skeptical if using a referral service that does little, if any, vetting of the attorneys who list their services for hire.
An established hiring platform, by contrast, will take the time to do a thorough vetting of an appearance attorney’s background and experience. When you work with a vendor on a hiring platform, you can rest assured that a person who has a year of estate planning experience isn’t going to handle a sensitive collections matter that they’ve never done before. This fact is yet another example of why it’s preferable to use a hiring platform versus an attorney referral service.
Docketly Only Works with Thoroughly Vetted Nationwide Appearance Attorneys
Docketly is the appearance attorney hiring platform of choice for law firms across the country. With more than 10,000 appearance attorneys nationwide, all thoroughly vetted, we can help find the right match to best meet the needs of your law firm. To learn more, we invite you to schedule a demo with us today.