Supervising Freelance Lawyers: Laying the Groundwork for Superior Drafting

February 18, 2012

Delegating legal writing is key to maximizing the productivity and efficiency of solo and small law firms. Collaboration is enhanced when both the supervising attorney and writer understand the supervision process. This series gives strategies for the three stages of legal writing supervision – planning, writing, and revision.

Supervising attorneys should devote ample time and attention to the planning stage of delegating legal writing. Having a verbal conversation is usually the most effective way to handle this stage, although email can suffice once the supervising attorney has developed an ongoing relationship with the writer.

The supervising attorney must first define the goal for the assignment. What is the desired result or relief? If the writer does not have a good grasp of what the supervising attorney’s goal is, then they will waste a round of revisions if the draft is not on point with the underlying goal.

Next, the supervising attorney and writer should discuss ways that they might achieve the desired result. When research is necessary before choosing a strategy, the supervising attorney can either task the writer with making a strategic decision or require she return for further collaboration after research. Together, the pair should brainstorm potential avenues for relief by drawing, charting, or outlining ideas. Involving the writer in this process increases the likelihood that she will have a broad understanding of the direction the project should take.

If there is any structure or organization the supervising attorney would like to see in the document, he should be sure to communicate this as well. The simplest concepts can get lost if they are not articulated. The supervising attorney should also provide the writer with templates of similar documents, specifying whether each is a guideline as to form or content.

It is imperative that the supervising attorney express his expectations clearly before delegating a legal writing assignment. A common area of mismatched expectations is in the level of polish or the type of draft the hiring attorney expects. The supervising attorney desire a document of “file-able” quality, or he may just be looking for a rough draft. Either way, communication on this point is necessary until the writer gets to know the supervising attorney’s preferences.

This post is adapted from The Freelance Lawyering Manual: What Every Lawyer Needs to Know About the New Temporary Attorney Market.

Solo and small firm attorneys should contact me by email or phone at 608-620-3529 to schedule a free consultation.

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