Contract work for lawyers


In yesterday’s post, I wrote about how a new attorney should seek appearances and overflow work from other attorneys. This morning, I found some older articles I had written about contract work for lawyers

One article was my response to an attorney who asked for my advice in getting contract work. I suggested the following:

  1. Call everyone you know who is a lawyer and let them know what you are doing. Ask them to refer you to three attorneys they know who may need court appearances, research, etc.
  2. Call everyone to whom you are referred and tell them what you’re looking for. Ask them to refer you to three attorneys who may need court appearances, etc.
  3. Repeat this process, until you have personally spoken to 100 attorneys. Follow up with a letter reminding them about what you do. Stay in touch with them every 90 days.

A personal phone call is a great way to cut through the clutter. But you can also be successful by advertising, as I did, or by mailing, as the following email I received attests:

“I think that I was perhaps one of the first contract attorneys in LA County way back when (late 80s). It was unheard of to hire hourly legal assistance at law firms and I certainly didn’t think it would work. Nonetheless, I sent out 100 letters to a focused group of law firms offering my services. I received 30 responses, had approximately 10 meetings and got work from almost everyone that I spoke to.

I’m sure my early big law firm experience helped, as well as my education and other credentials. But mainly I think I owe my success to just being willing to do something that made no sense at all!”

Christine P.

To whom should you write?


I got a lot of personal injury referrals from personal injury attorneys. They had cases that needed to be worked up for trial and didn’t have the time.

If an attorney is going to turn it away a case that’s too small or two weak for them, why not give it to you? Especially if you offer a referral fee (if allowed) or suggest that you will associate with them on bigger matters that may be over your head.

I also got lots of appearances. I remember one sole practitioner who had been ill and was essentially bed ridden. His wife was holding the fort in the office while he recuperated and hired me to do all of the court appearances, depos, and arbitrations.

Another time, an insurance defense firm had to do hundreds of depos in a short period of time and didn’t have the manpower. I was brought in, along with several other contract attorneys, and we worked every day for six weeks. I billed them thousands of dollars a week (this was a long time ago) and they billed their client. I’m sure they had a nice mark up.


If they don’t do what you do, you have a chance to get better clients and cases referred to you. The challenge is that they may already have someone they refer to.

But they might not. Or maybe they don’t have someone in your geographic area. You won’t know unless you ask.

And, a lawyer who doesn’t have something for you today might have something for you two months from now when the lawyer they had been referring business to screws up or is too busy, the matter is too small, or there is a conflict of interest.

Also, the lawyer you contact may not have work for you but they may know someone who does. So, focus on building relationships. The work will come.

You might also send letters to lawyers and firms that are advertising to hire attorneys. They obviously have the work and are looking for help, and until they find it, you may be able to get some of that work.

Even the best and biggest law firms need help from time to time. There are temp firms that book attorneys, and you can certainly register with them. But I found that going direct to the source allowed me to get the best work and charge the highest fees. And, once a lawyer had used me once or twice and knew they could trust me and my work, they usually wanted to continue to use me, even though they could find much cheaper alternatives.

Like any kind of marketing, the hard part is getting your foot in the door. As soon as one firm hires you or refers business, ask them for referrals to other lawyers who might need contract work. One will lead to others.

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula.