For years, I’ve been a proponent of relying on independent contractors, freelancers, and other outsourced or temporary labor to provide back up during a busy spell, to test potential full-time hires or to ease into growing solo . Yet, while I’ve used freelancers over the years both in my practice and for various projects at this blog, several factors inhibited wider use. Although several freelancers I’ve used in the past delivered court-ready quality, not surprisingly, they command higher rates which don’t always fit my budget or are in high demand, so I can’t always obtain the speedy turn around time that I need. Meanwhile, my results with cheaper freelancers were mixed at best (as in matters turned in four weeks late to simple cluelessness about tackling a research project), while placement agencies didn’t always vet candidates as I would have (some couldn’t write their way out of a paper bag), didn’t necessarily give me access to lower cost candidates and took a 30 to 50 percent cut off the contract lawyer’s fee meaning that unless I forked up at least $125/hour, the contract lawyer would earn a pittance.

So recently, after some negative experiences, I’ve been a bit more gun shy about using contract workers. Until a few weeks ago, when juggling several time-sensitive litigation matters in multiple forums and unable to get by on four hours sleep indefinitely, I caved. I needed someone on a short-term basis to advance discovery in a federal court matter and while the matters involved quick turn around, they weren’t rocket science, so a high-end freelancer wasn’t necessary. So on a whim, I decided to turn to Hire an Esquire . Truth be told, I’d explored the site a few years back when it first launched and wasn’t impressed. At that time, only a few jobs posted, there weren’t many freelancers listed on the site and the interface didn’t work very well. However, I’d recently seen an article that the company received an infusion of venture capital , so I assumed that it must have improved.

And how! As it turned out, my experience with Hire an Esquire was seamless (even when there was a glitch) and the site produced exactly the results that I wanted from a placement agency. Below, I’ll describe how the site works, highlight best features of Hire an Esquire, and why I felt good about using it:

How it Works Hire an Esquire works much like other freelance sites like elance or odesk. I signed up and provided payment information (bank account or credit card) which was then verified. In the meantime, I posted a description of the work entailed, the level of experience desired (3+ years) and a price. All the while, a site concierge gave me advice through the process, such as how to price the project. I went with $75/hour, which turned out to be around $84/hour with the Hire an Esquire mark-up. Within a couple of hours of posting, I began receiving resumes from attorneys of all levels of experience. Although one or two couple of outliers with less than a year of experience responded, for the most part, I attracted a highly qualified pool. I followed up requesting resumes, and for those respondents who had their own practices, also emphasized that my deadlines would have to take priority if they had conflicts. I finally settled on a lawyer with over a decade of experience including litigation who had been very conscientious about following up in a timely manner. Within a week of listing the project, I handed it off, and even better, the lawyer I’d selected offered to work on the matter over the weekend to avoid time pressure.

Best Features There were several features of Hire an Esquire that I liked over local placement agencies:

Control First and most importantly, I had control of the process. I posted the project and reviewed and followed up with the recipients instead of having an intermediary handle it for me. As a result, when I received a writing sample that in my view was sub-par, from an otherwise qualified candidate, I could simply reject him from consideration. Likewise, during the back and forth follow-up, I got a sense of what the candidate’s work habits were like and how we might work together.

Speed The Hire an Esquire process was swift. I posted my project on a Monday or Tuesday and by Friday, had handed the matter off. It’s possible that I attracted a strong pool of qualified candidates because the nature of the task – discovery in federal court – is somewhat general and therefore, likely to attract a wide pool. In addition, the price offered was substantial enough to interest relatively experienced lawyers.

But Hire an Esquire wasn’t just speedy in finding me candidates – billing and invoicing were speedy as well. After a segment of work is performed, the freelancer prepares the invoice, and the hiring attorney has several days to review and approve it. Once approved, the site immediately collects the money through the designated payment source. Although no one likes to pay bills, these efficiencies are a win-win for both sides. Since the freelancers are taking a cut in what they might bill independently, the speed of payment compensates for the lower rate. Meanwhile, as a hiring attorney, receiving and paying the bill immediately enabled me to include the costs in the same client billing cycle and recover them promptly.

Win-Win for Both Most of all, I felt good about using the site because attorneys were paid quickly – and because I could afford to pay more since Hire an Esquire took a smaller cut. In addition, the freelancers didn’t suffer because of late payments – I had some trouble connecting my bank account to the site, and as a result, my first payment was delayed by a few days. But Hire an Esquire covered the cost so the freelancer wasn’t late in getting paid as well. I also felt that if I had a problem with an attorney, that would step in and help me find a replacement so that my project wasn’t compromised.

I’m not sure that Hire an Esquire will help me with my more complex energy regulatory matters. And while there are a couple of research projects I have in mind to pursue for MyShingle, I’d certainly be looking to pay a lower rate, so I’d have to see if the quality of service remains strong farther down in the talent pool. But I liked the site enough (and the attorney I selected the first time) that if I ever find myself in a similar situation, I will again consider Hire an Esquire.