In my last post on this subject, I discussed the need to come to an upfront agreement with the attorney handling your case on the appropriate level and mix of any additional attorney staff that might be needed to handle your case. Notwithstanding the need to agree on the attorneys who might be regularly working on your case, I also stated that the attorney in charge of the case should have some flexibility to assign certain one-off tasks to other lower billing attorneys as the need arises.
I left off my last blog piece with the question of how do you determine if the additional attorney staff is warranted if the attorney handling your case says that more attorney staff is needed to work on your case? My response to that question is that adding any additional additional attorney staff beyond that initially agreed upon should only be for one of four reasons. Here are those reasons:
- Special expertise is now needed.
- There is more work to do than anticipated.
- It will allow things to get done sooner rather than later.
- It will save rather than add costs.
With regard to point no. 1, perhaps a tax question or an environmental law question or some other question involving a specialty area of the law has arisen. Using an attorney who already has special expertise in that area of the law may not only lead to a better result, but it may allow things to get done sooner and will save on the costs of getting one of the already approved attorneys up to speed to address the issue. (See points no. 3 & 4.)
Where the reason given is that there is more work to do than anticipated, the attorney should specifically address the “than anticipated” part of point no. 2. Why was it not anticipated? The answer may raise a red flag about the attorney you hired. Perhaps the attorney does not really have the level of experience he claimed to have with regard to the issues in the matter. Better to address that issue now rather than later on at a point of no return in the case.
Also, with regard to points 2, 3, and 4, what level of attorney (partner, senior associate, junior associate) is needed and why that level? While an experienced partner or senior associate might be needed to address point no. 1, absent a need for special expertise, most additional work (such as to pour through additional discovery documents) should be able to be handled by lower billing junior associates.
And why add more attorneys? Could paralegals handle the additional work or help get things done sooner, rather than later and at the same time save on legal costs? I have discussed the issue of staffing a matter in several of my prior blog posts including “An Attorney’s Duty to Use Less Costly Personnel”.
In summary, the question of appropriate staffing a matter should begin at the outset of an assignment. If additional staffing is needed beyond that initially discussed, the reason(s) for the need for additional staffing should fit into one of the four separate reasons discussed above. If the reason given for adding additional staff does not fit one of these four reasons, then it could be a sign that your lawyer may the wrong fit for your case.