My Shingle

Help an Unemployed Lawyer, New Solo or Law Student and Help Yourself

by Carolyn Elefant on December 6, 2010 · 18 comments

in Ideas & Tips, Outsourcing & Hiring

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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?

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  • shg

    Maybe someone would like to pay me $50 to write blog posts? Up to now, I’ve been doing them pro bono.

  • Carolyn Elefant

    OK – so maybe paying for blog posts isn’t the best expenditure. But aren’t people curious about legal issues in their practice? About developing new theories or seeing what other circuits are doing? It could be used for this.
    BTW, the idea of paying it forward is not targeted at you. You give so much priceless advice to people at your blog and from what I understand, off the blog as well.

  • Michael Manley

    As a new attorney, I would definitely appreciate this. It’s true that we suffer from a willingness to work for free, just to get experience. Thank you for the great post.

  • Michael Manley

    As a new attorney, I would definitely appreciate this. It’s true that we suffer from a willingness to work for free, just to get experience. Thank you for the great post.

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  • Vincent

    Is paying for blog posts really that unlikely?
    SEO people always say the best way to get traffic is frequent additions of good content to your site. Some SEO firms even provide content, though that has come under serious controversy lately as a possible violation of legal ethics.
    Surely many lawyers don’t have the time to crank out a daily or even weekly post and perhaps paying a small fee to another licensed attorney to write content for your blog would be a good expenditure. It would certainly be less cost than an established attorney’s own hourly cost for time spent.
    Could I make a business of providing content for other attorneys’ blogs?

  • shg

    That’s not blogging, Vincent, when you have someone (or worse still, some SEO firm) provide content in order to deceive people into believing it’s the product of a lawyer. That’s putting on hotpants and walking the street. Whatever gave you the impression that being a lawyer is all about SEO and lying to people?

    That said, there’s a definite possibility that you could make a business of providing content for other lawyer’s blogs. They would be summy lawyers, and you would be complicit in a fraud, but it’s up to you whether that would be a stumbling block. Based on your comment, my guess is that it wouldn’t bother you in the slightest.

  • Carolyn Elefant

    I just want to clarify that when I talk about paying for blog posts, I was thinking along the lines of digging up links to case law or statutes to support a post, doing some research, or writing some posts that are then reviewed by the lawyer, with full disclosure of assistance (as I recently did in a pinch at my renewablesoffshore.com blog)

    I can’t have anyone write for me at MyShingle; it is just too much my voice. But I do need help upgrading the static resources – like the Bars, Reviewed and my online guide and I will likely reach out to law students when I am ready to update.

  • Carolyn Elefant

    I know. And it is not fair. Lawyers are so adamant about not working for clients for free, yet they often think nothing of trying to get free work out of students.

  • Vincent

    Wow. I really don’t see why my comment produced such a vitriolic reply. Accusing me of fraud? seriously? That’s just absurd. I said absolutely nothing about deceiving anyone. I beg you to be civil and actually talk about what I did say, not some imagined pared of horribles goblin that is the product of your own mind.
    Carolyn has a guest blogger today. Does that constitute fraud because it’s her blog but she didn’t write it?
    I really am sorry people like you are so negative to new attorneys and new ideas.

  • Vincent

    What I had in mind is more akin to freelance journalism. I could write articles about current changes in law or even issues brought to the attention of a particular firm by clients. It would be fully disclosed that I was not a member of the firm but was contracted to provide useful information to clients. It’s a brand new idea for me so I would appreciate help fleshing it out and not name-calling and personal insults.

  • shg

    Vincent, it’s time for some tough love. First, cut the crap. When you compared your plan to stock content from SEO marketers, you weren’t talking about freelance journalism under your own name. Nice try to spin it back, but who are you trying to kid?

    Second, even if that had been your idea, suspending reality for a moment, what are the chances that there’s a market for some inexperienced, unemployed, whiny newbie lawyer to provide content? What experience lawyer would want to use your astute ideas and good name as a means of getting content?

    Third, man up and stop whining. If you think you’ve got anything on the ball, than hang out a shingle and get some business. Why would you even think of writing blog posts for a pittance rather than practice law? This is what Carolyn’s blog is all about, taking the chance of being a real lawyer.

    In no event, however, does anyone who starts crying when somebody doesn’t give them a hug and pat on the back have any business representing anyone. If you can’t put on your big boy pants and toughen up, then find some other use for your law degree. Stop whining and do something lawyerly if you’ve got it in you.

  • Vincent

    shg,
    Thank you for your input.
    You go about doing everything the same old way. That’s fine.
    I don’t know why you have so much hostility, but sifting through the crap, you do have some valid points (though you need to learn the difference between “compare” and “contrast”).
    It’s a nascent idea and your gut reaction will help me figure out where I can go with it.

  • shg

    Bear in mind one thing. Old curmudgeons (like me) are the guys who own and manage law firms. Every snot-nosed kid who has yet to accomplish anything in his life is absolutely certain that he knows more than we do. This doesn’t mean you (necessarily), but every kid. Interview a few thousand, and you’ll learn. Every single one is a genius, and they’re happy to tell you.

    It was the same way ten years ago. Now, 90% of those geniuses are either out of the law or struggling desperately to pay the lease on their Corolla. Maybe they didn’t have all the answers. And that’s why old curmudgeons like me challnege every brilliant kid like you. You may well prove to be the exception, the one in a thousand who turns out to be superlative. Hell, what do you think we were 25 years ago?

    Or you may just be another kid who is never seen or heard from again. That’s up to you.

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