If you’re a busy solo, as the year comes to a close you probably have a bunch of projects that you’d hoped to accomplish in 2010, but that still remain on the back burner. Maybe you’d hoped to round up the most recent cases related to subpoenaing Facebook accounts or to write an article on a new law that might impact your clients or to set up a research file comprised of cases that you frequently cite. Well, why not give yourself a gift and get the work done, and help another lawyer besides by hiring a law student, an unemployed lawyer or even a new solo to do the work for you?
I’m not suggesting that you spend thousands of dollars. Rather, you could put together a scope of work and assign a fair price – maybe $50 for help with a blog post, or $250 for a fully researched article. As with a charitable contribution, you’d even get a tax deduction as a business expense. Clearly, these prices aren’t going to pay a law student’s tuition for the upcoming year or enable a new solo to make rent, but it could pay for books or CLE. More importantly, by hiring someone to work for you on a project basis, it’s a resume-builder that looks much more impressive than contract work or even an unpaid internship. And if you’re able to generate business as a result of the work you commissioned, you might even be able to farm out more work.
I know lots of students and new solos are willing to work for free, to gain experience in exchange for labor. Likewise, others may fall prey to crowd-sourcing scams, where they’re asked to work for free — perhaps writing blog posts for revenue-generating sites so that others can prosper or researching cases with a promise of payment if the lawyer generates income, so the new solo takes all the risk. There are already plenty of honest opportunities for unpaid work in the legal profession: it’s called pro bono. What I’m proposing here is different; that irrespective of a new solo’s or student’s willingness to work free, you pay them anyway. Pay then so that they’ll feel pride in earning money and so that they’ll realize that they have skills that have monetary value. For a few dollars, you’ll give students and new solos an important psychological boost in these tough times.
You don’t need to go to Craig’s List and in fact, I’d avoid it for this kind of project. Instead, take a look around your community, the web, your listserves and around Twitter. If there’s a student or new solo who impresses you and who seems to be in need of work, reach out. Once upon a time, someone helped you get your start. Why not pay it forward?