Take on Lower-Paying Clients to Get Your Firm Back on Track
As we all know, COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown has forced many law firms into hardship – and although we are gradually coming out of lockdown that doesn’t mean there aren’t still challenges ahead. It may pay to consider lower-paying jobs and outsourcing to make ends meet in the meantime.
As lockdown is slowly lifted, law firms will be looking to get back into business and onto an even keel as swiftly as possible. However, they will also probably be looking to cut costs to do so.
This needs to be balanced with the knowledge that certain types of work are likely to be more abundant than others in the immediate aftermath of lockdown. For example; commercial leases and contracts, tenancy agreements, general contractual disputes, divorce and family law, probate, will writing, employment contract, and company mergers and acquisitions, etc. These are areas you want to be sure you can service effectively and profitably from the minute your doors open again for business.
However, some of these areas are at the lower end of the fee scale and may not be work you generally focus on. Perhaps in the past they haven’t been profitable enough to form a key part of the business, but with demand likely to be high, now might be the time to reconsider.
So, what can you do if your firm does not employ (or is unable financially to employ) sufficiently experienced individuals in these areas? This is where outsourcing to a local licenced paralegal may solve the problem. NALP licenced paralegals specialise in one or two legal areas and will not be as costly to employ on a contractual basis as a qualified solicitor. As many have their own paralegal practice, it’s possible either to outsource or sub-contract the work to them, while keeping the management (and profits) in-house.
Over the next few months there is likely to be a rush of small low-end legal matters, like small claims, contractual disputes and tribunal matters. Access to legal advice and help may be too costly via conventional routes like paying a fee to a solicitor for matters such as general contractual advice, matrimonial assistance, hiring and firing staff (employment contracts), renting or leasing private accommodation or commercial units, collection of debts or minor civil disputes. All of these can be dealt with, at a much lower rate, by a NALP Licenced Paralegal Practitioner.
It therefore makes sense to utilise the services of a NALP paralegal or two and ensure you win that business. By offering these services at an affordable rate and then outsourcing to a paralegal, you can increase your profits without the risk of taking on more staff or making a long-term commitment. The rest of your team can then continue to earn the bigger fees while the smaller jobs tick along and pay the bills. In addition, these new lower paying clients today may well be tomorrow’s higher paying business.
Over the next few months there is likely to be a rush of small low-end legal matters, like claims, contractual disputes and tribunal matters.
As a law firm, if you’re looking to use the services of a paralegal there are a few things to look out for:
- Are they a member of a professional body, such as NALP (National Association of Licenced Paralegals)?
- Do they have a NALP Licence to Practise and professional indemnity insurance (PII)? The latter is not necessary if you are employing them in-house staff within your practice.
- Ensure that the activity you need help with is something that a Paralegal is allowed to deal with. Essentially, Paralegals can do almost everything a solicitor can do, but certain activities are reserved and cannot be performed by a paralegal.
- It is important to check the training and qualifications of such paralegals which will be dependent on the type of work you require them to do. So, entry level (basic work and assistance) may only require a Level 3 qualification (such as the NALP Level 3 Certificate or Diploma.) Alternatively, work that requires a level of expertise and skill may require an applicant to have either a minimum Level 4 (such as the NALP Level Diploma) or a law degree or above.
There is no doubt that paralegals can play a big part in getting the legal sector back on its feet quickly and helping to ensure it’s in a position where they can thrive once more.
Amanda Hamilton is Chief Executive of the National Association of Licenced Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit Membership Body and the only Paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England).