Law Firm Management

Big Law Does It Better

I am willing to bet that you did not expect that headline from me!  And to be fair, I do not intend it as a general statement. What I am going to talk about is legal research, and it is a fact that Big Law does  that better than the rest of us.  While Big Law (and occasionally Medium Law) employs specialists to do their research, the rest of us  either do it ourselves or give the job to articling students, summer students, or  junior lawyers.

Recently, there have emerged some independent contractors who specialize in doing legal research for other lawyers. One would think that the profession would be jumping for joy at finding yet another way to level the playing field with Big Law by hiring these Research Lawyers. A few progressive lawyers see it this way. But, of course, the vast majority prefer to do things the way that they have always been done, and therefore continue to do research themselves or delegate it to students and junior associates.

From my perspective, you should not  hire an independent Research Lawyer if:

  1. You are excellent at doing your own research which you can bill at full rates, you have lots of extra time, and your extra time is not better spent doing something else, whether personal or professional;
  2. You have underworked junior associates who are good at doing research and you can charge their full rates for doing it;
  3. You prefer to have your research done by this year’s crop of summer students and articling students, whoever they are, and you are willing to take the risks inherent in trusting important work to a succession of newbies who may or may not be any good, likely have little or no experience managing their time and balancing priorities, and will require training and supervision;
  4. You enjoy the excitement of not knowing whether each research assignment will be done brilliantly or not so brilliantly;
  5. You really do not care if the research is correct; or
  6. You have no interest in developing a long-term relationship with a lawyer  who loves doing research, is good at it, and who will get to know how you like to tackle research projects and the format in which you want to receive work product.

In all other cases, you might consider having your research done by someone who has chosen to make it their career, while finding another way for you to compete effectively with Big Law.

This article was originally published by Law360 Canada, part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.

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