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The Complete Guide to Contract Lawyering: What Every Lawyer and Law Firm Needs to Know About Temporary Legal Services.

Deborah Arron and Deborah Guyol Niche Press, P.O. Box 99477, Seattle, WA 98199. 317 pp., $39.95.

Reviewed by Mary Louise Kandyba

Sole practitioners who have scrambled around to find someone to cover an expert's deposition scheduled for the same day as a hearing on a summary judgment motion have used "contract lawyers" for years. These lawyers frequently are young attorneys starting out in practice who have more time on their hands than cases to handle.

But contract lawyers can also be more experienced practitioners between jobs who are more than willing to earn a decent hourly wage performing temporary legal services.

I was surprised to discover from reading this book that many attorneys in this country choose to do nothing but temporary legal work. The authors, one a lawyer specializing in career development for attorneys, the other a full-time contract lawyer, do a terrific job of debunking the myth that lawyers who provide temporary legal services are somehow less professional than the rest of the practicing bar.

The book opens with a sociological discussion of the rise of contract lawyering, including the technological and demographic influences that created this practice niche. This is a fascinating topic, and it deserves more thorough treatment from the authors.

The authors then turn to persuading attorneys who may be considering this career option that contract lawyering is a perfectly acceptable and satisfying way to practice law, both emotionally and economically.

The authors say that certain personality traits are needed for successful contract lawyering. These include adaptability, independence, resourcefulness, and conscientiousness. It is hard to believe that any practicing attorney could survive without these qualities. One trait the authors touch on seems particularly helpful to those who choose the contract lawyering path--humility.

As the authors note, "[A] contract lawyer is there to get the job done, not to take the credit." This theme is repeatedly, and appropriately, emphasized throughout the book.

The book makes a powerful argument that attorneys should use contract lawyers to improve the efficiency and productivity of their practices.

The war stories interspersed throughout the book, however, lead me to suspect that this argument is directed at corporations and large-firm practitioners rather than small-firm or sole-practice plaintiffs' attorneys.

The reason I suspect this is that small-firm lawyers and sole practitioners have always called in specialists when the need has arisen, usually through an established practice of mutual referrals among firms. Attorneys who exclusively practice personal injury law often refer clients with real estate, corporate, criminal, and family law matters to firms that handle these cases. In return, these firms refer their clients with personal injury matters back to the personal injury lawyer.

The authors never really address the question of how a prospective contract lawyer competes with an entrenched referral system. Nor do they consider the argument from the perspective of the attorney who might have occasion to use a contract lawyer but who benefits from the custom of referral.

Although it may be true that a law office can handle more matters for its clients by using a contract lawyer, why would a personal injury firm hire a contract lawyer to handle a real estate transaction and risk losing the personal injury referrals it receives from the firm to which it usually refers its real estate matters?

Plaintiffs' attorneys are most likely to benefit from using contract lawyers in two instances--when they have a complicated case that is ready for trial that simply cannot be handled by a single attorney, and when they need to prepare an appellate brief in the event the trial is lost.

Overall, the book is a useful source for attorneys considering this form of practice as well as attorneys in need of temporary staff.
COPYRIGHT 1996 American Association for Justice
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Kandyba, Mary Louise
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1996
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