How will the gig economy affect my law firm?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 35% of the U.S. workforce (55 million people) are now “gig workers.” Projections show that the number will jump to 40% by 2020. While the phrase “gig economy” is beginning to be more recognizable to many, a significant number of professionals are only familiar with ride-hailing or grocery delivery and other task-based “gigs.” What many don’t realize is that some of the fastest growing segments of the gig economy are those that offer professional, specialized services.
How this applies to small law firms
The increasing availability of skilled, independent workers has led sole practitioners and boutique law firms to ask, “are there opportunities for me to hire freelance workers?” In many cases, the answer is yes. If you think about it, hiring “gig workers” to handle specific duties within your firm could allow you to:
- Scale your workforce up and down as needed, based on the ebbs and flows of your caseload
- Maximize efficiency by only buying the hours you need for specific tasks, saving you the overhead of hiring full-time employees
- Outsource work that is difficult to manage and monitor in-house (like marketing, design, copywriting, social media, etc.)
- Acquire highly-skilled labor on a per-project basis
By building smaller-scale relationships with experienced and skilled freelancers, your firm could reap the benefits of the gig economy. The flexibility it offers could be a “game-changer” in how your firm operates.
Which Tasks Could A Gig Worker Handle for My Firm?
As we mentioned above, creative and marketing duties are some that many busy attorneys and practice managers would love to offload. The abundance of talented freelance workers available to handle this work makes it a practical initiative to adopt.
There are several other ways that law firms will increasingly turn to the gig economy to improve efficiency and reduce overhead. They include:
Hiring and managing people: As anyone who has worked at a small firm can attest, recruiting, interviewing, training, and managing employees is incredibly time-consuming and can begin to cannibalize efforts that should be put toward casework. Hiring a full-time office manager can be costly, but thanks to the gig economy, you could find professionals with extensive experience that are willing to take on these tasks, but as-needed or in a “flex role.”
Working with clients: If you need assistance with intake, customer service, or any other client-facing work, there are gig workers available who have extensive experience performing these specific duties. Instead of hiring employees to handle these duties part-time or full-time, consider your practice’s specific needs and decide if a gig-worker could handle them.
Managing your caseload: Again, sole practitioners and small firm owners can agree, the stress and strain of managing your workload can be difficult without assistance. During slower times, you may not need the overhead that comes with support staff, but during busier times, you may be wishing that you had more hands around to assist you. This is where taking advantage of the gig economy might be the right solution for you. You can likely find capable, enthusiastic, and effective independent workers to step in when you need them, then step away when you don’t.
Embracing the “Gig Economy”
For both gig workers and the employers who hire them, employment is no longer a shackle that is difficult or impossible to break. Gig employees get flexibility, an ideal work-life balance, and the ability to pursue other passions while making a living on their own terms. Employers can get skilled, experienced labor that they might not otherwise be able to afford, and can reduce taxes, benefits, workers’ comp, and other costs.
Some partners or practice managers may argue against the use of gig workers. They may be worried about having a “revolving door” of workers who need to be recruited and trained for your firm’s tasks. They might be concerned about the firm’s “culture” or the quality of service that a gig-worker might provide. While these are, indeed, concerns worth mentioning, most companies who hire gig workers will tell you that they are not serious issues.
Finding quality gig workers is easier now than ever before. Employers can connect with gig workers instantly through specialized service providers, websites, and applications. These workers are often highly motivated to perform at or above your expectations for two reasons: they are compensated for completing the tasks to your satisfaction, and their performance could affect their ability to get gigs in the future.
With clients expecting quality service and communication at a faster rate, few small firms can afford not to have enough people to handle all of the daily duties effectively and efficiently. The gig economy could provide your firm with the skilled labor you need, at a fraction of the cost of a full-time worker with the same qualifications.