The Talent

March 30, 2009 2:19 PM

Associate Launches "Craigslist" to Assist Out-of-Work Lawyers

Posted by Brian Baxter

Laurel Edgeworth

As the economic crisis forces many industries to reevaluate the way they do business, the legal industry has gone through its own upheaval as firms struggle to adapt to changing times and paradigms.

While the idea of outsourcing legal work overseas has been around for several years, earlier this month Laurel Edgeworth launched Law Clerk Connection (LCC), a Web site seeking to put junior lawyers in contact with companies and law firms looking to outsource low-end legal work in the United States.

Edgeworth's brainchild came while she attended night classes at the University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento--Edgeworth spent her days as a law clerk at a small firm in nearby Cameron Park.

The firm served as general counsel to multiple local school districts, and Edgeworth noticed that cases would often crop up that required thousands of documents to be reviewed, cataloged, organized, and analyzed in a tight time frame.

Smaller firms generally don't have the resources to sort through resumes for people looking to do the work or provide the space necessary for that work, even for a short period of time.

Edgeworth, 34, thought law students and recent law school grads were an untapped resource to handle such tasks. Thus the impetus behind LCC, which Edgeworth compares to a "craigslist" for lawyers.

The Am Law Daily caught up with Edgeworth to discuss coming up with company names, how she thinks LCC can help out-of-work lawyers, and keeping outsourced legal work on-shore.

Hi Laurel. So what are the benefits of LCC to clients?

Well if you're a lawyer in a crisis situation and you're short on bodies and time, it's not always feasible to put out an ad for a new person and interview them. I started looking around and researching how technology has really made outsourcing a huge benefit to many other businesses out there. So I wanted to figure out a way to merge the two.

And this is aimed towards actual law students and those just out of law school, correct?

Yes. I wanted to create a site to give law students and graduates the resources they need to research, do discreet short-term legal projects on short notice, and have networking opportunities. There's this virtualization movement in law now where lawyers are giving up the brick-and-mortar and starting to work from home. You don't always need to have that large overhead. [LCC] can be a real addition to that endeavor by giving these virtualized lawyers a nationwide network of law students.

What kinds of legal work are we talking about?

Basic legal research, document production, drafting, and things of that nature. Anything to give the lawyers more time to work with a client to provide more high-level analysis. And I could see us moving toward document review, discovery production, privilege logs, and things of that sort. You can even hire two law clerks to research both sides of an issue to make sure no arguments have been overlooked. That's what I see being done.

Did you look at other sites like Legal OnRamp when developing LCC?

When I was doing research to see what else was out there, I looked at a number of different sites. There are a large number of offshore legal process sites, some of whom have on-shore contacts. I've seen a few not-quite-operational sites that are attempting to do legal freelance work, but it's more of a generalized freelance community.

I take it LCC is entirely on-shore?

It's right here in California, so it's not an offshore site. All of those working on projects [through LCC] are law students or lawyers that have graduated from ABA-approved law schools. And that's a big part of this. We've got our manufacturing offshored and now we're moving to offshore our critical knowledge. That's a concern to me. So I thought [LCC] would be a good way to nurture up-and-coming lawyers and I designed this to be a national endeavor.

Why the name 'Law Clerk'? It seems like your site can be used by more than law clerks.

Well, coming up with the name of a business is challenging. But I thought that law students who work for lawyers are generally called law clerks. And I wanted to create more of a connection between lawyers, law clerks, and law students, so they could have a community to exchange ideas and make connections to accomplish goals.

How does one 'bid' on a particular assignment? Is it through individual profiles?

Yes. Law students, graduates, and lawyers are all considered [LCC] providers, and they'll create their own professional profiles. That will enable them to upload writing samples to create portfolios and once a lawyer has a project that they need done, they'll post it and the law clerks will bid on it. And the lawyer can choose one or more individuals to do any projects that they like.

And I assume that prospective bidders have to be savvy about their rates?

Right. They can say they'll do a project in a certain time frame either at an hourly rate or at a fixed price. And all the document exchanges are completely confidential and can only be seen by the parties doing the actual work.

How do you get paid?

We're charging some very low membership fees for the law clerks. Right now there's no charge for lawyers to post projects, as we're trying to encourage people to use us. Ultimately, we will charge a small percentage of each project from the lawyers' side.

Have you been happy with the response so far?

I've got several clerks working on some projects already, and everyone I talk to seems excited about it. I'm also really excited about our pro bono section, where anybody who's doing pro bono work or who works for legal services organizations can upload their projects and have as many law clerks as they can get working on their project for free. So if we can increase access to legal services, that would be great.

I know this is still in the beginning stages, but how do you see the site evolving?

I initially envisioned this as more appealing to the smaller firms. But now I've been thinking about how to use [LCC] with government entities, because they've got the public bidding requirements. So that's a more recent thought of mine. And I think we can definitely be a help to the government if we can maintain the requirements that they have.

Did you have any business partners in getting LCC off the ground?

My mom is actually my partner!

You can never go wrong when mom's involved.

It's funny because I told her my plans for the site and she just had all of these ideas--from marketing to building the site. She's got a broad background in the IT staffing industry, so she's been a great resource for [LCC]'s development. And hopefully it works out. 

All interviews are condensed and edited for style and grammar.

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I agree with this and I congratulate you for this article

This isn't new. This is exactly the same thing that staffing agencies do. The only difference is that there is no staffing agency employee to vet candidates. Plus, there are plenty of attorneys (solo and small firms) out there that outsource to other firms directly.

The whole reason Craigslist took off was that it was free for a really long time.

I went to go look around on LCC's website, and you have to pay to even check it out. I'd like to vet something for myself before paying for it.

Crises breed innovation- even if it's just improving upon an already existing idea. Glad to see these kinds of projects developing.

We've been doing this for almost 8 years and all of our attorneys are also on-shore. Our membership base is now 12,000+ and includes attorneys, law firms, bar associations, e-discovery companies, staffing agencies, etc. We post projects across the country for basic legal research, document production, e-discovery, etc.

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