From time to time in my practice, I have a need for paralegal type support or quasi-legal research. The tasks might include summarizing depositions, finding background on a particular industry, following up on marketing leads, gathering web materials on a recent trend in the law, updating one of my websites or weblogs or even doing some very basic legal research like compiling a bunch of statutes or background caselaw on a topic.
Surprisingly, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to retain qualified people to handle administative and low-end research needs on an ad hoc basis. When it comes to outsourcing more heavy weight legal research projects, there are plenty of options. But the high end research services simply aren’t cost effective for low end needs. I’ve had no luck hiring law students either; I find that by the time the law school posts my ad and students see it, my need for help has already passed. Virtual secretaries or paralegals are another option, but most charge a mark-up for short term, “piece work;” and I’ve found the rates higher than what I care to pay for low end work. So this month, when a unique research project cropped up (gathering information about a very distinct industry for use in a lawsuit), I decided to turn to Craig’s List.
I posted a very narrow ad on two relevant boards, specifying the type of project and the rate. Within a matter of hours, resumes started coming in. At least four of the candidates possessed the exact type of experience that I was seeking while all twelve were plausibly qualified and would have made decent hires. After a couple of interviews, I made a selection who turned in a first rate job. And, I’ve still got a number of names in my files for future projects.
I don’t know if Craig’s List will always work this well for me but it’s definitely a tip worth passing on. As for all of you D.C. area law school career offices, I’ve got to wonder how well you’re service student needs if local attorneys are better off finding help through an online service rather than through your offices. Hey law students, what say you about this?