Tag: Business

Lawyer/businessman’s niche: rent-a-lawyer business

Fresh out of graduate school in 1992 with a dual degree in law and business administration, Karl Schieneman figured he could write his professional ticket.

But it didn’t work out that way, despite his master’s from Carnegie-Mellon University’s prestigious Graduate School of Industrial Administration and his Law Review credentials at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Law.

Schieneman wanted to stay in Pittsburgh because his wife, Olga, established in a career here, but contends that he couldn’t even land an interview at a local law firm because of a saturation of lawyers in the market.

So he took a job at accounting firm Price Waterhouse for 13 months before he got his foot in the door at Marcus & Shapira, a Downtown law firm that hired him on a contract basis to work on the huge Phar-Mor financial scandal.

The firm eventually offered Schieneman a full-time position – which he accepted – but the experience of working as a temporary planted the seed for the business he would help launch in 1995: Legal Network Ltd., a placement service for temporary and contract lawyers.

Since last year, Schieneman, 34, has been running Legal Network as its managing director.

The company has about 50 attorneys placed under contract and counts a database of 2,000 lawyers and 500 paralegals it can tap for assignments.

Clients that use temporary legal professionals are generally law firms that need help on big projects or during peak business times; and corporations that want to outsource legal work or give an attorney a tryout period before making a full-time offer, Schieneman said.

Among its corporate clients are Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp., Armco, Allegheny Power and General Nutrition Companies Inc.

Legal Network charges clients between $20 and $100 per hour for its attorneys depending on the length of the project, the attorney’s expertise and other factors that vary from case to case, according to pricing information on its Web site.

For paralegals, it charges $12 to $35 per hour.

Legal Network keeps a cut of the fee clients pay, but Schieneman declined to disclose the percentage.

He expects total revenues this year to reach between $1.5 million and $2 million. Besides placement fees for legal help, future growth may come from adding placement services for professionals in health or engineering fields, Schieneman said.

It’s also considering opening satellite offices and perhaps merging with other firms.

Legal Network has already made one strategic acquisition this year. In August, it bought the Pittsburgh operations of Oxford Legal Associates, a Philadelphia placement firm, in a deal that added several hundred professionals to

Legal Network’s database.

Schieneman drafted the business plan for the company while working at Marcus & Shapira because he saw a niche for a business that would “provide a way for lawyers to break into a tough market,” Schieneman said.
The other founders, who also hold a stake in the business, are Pittsburgh attorney Brad Franc, and Lawrence

Kolarik, a computer specialist who works for Automatic Data Processing.

Originally based on Babcock Boulevard in Ross, Legal Network in April relocated to the Regional Enterprise

Tower, Downtown, (the former Alcoa Building) “to be close to the legal community,” Schieneman said. It employs three full-timers

Schieneman considers his job to be an ideal mix of his business and legal backgrounds and contends that he doesn’t miss practicing law because he’s exposed to so many legal trends and issues through placement assignments.

Although he grew up in Englewood, NJ – where he attend his high school prom with future Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino – Schieneman has made Pittsburgh his adopted home.

The Hampton resident and father of two coaches his daughters’ soccer team and recently joined Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project (PUMP), an organization of young Pittsburgh professionals that he sees as a critical force in growing the city’s business community.

Schieneman credits Olga, his wife, a sales information manager for Kraft Foods, Inc., with extreme patience and support as he shifted from accounting to law and finally, to running his own business. “She stood by me . . . and I’ve always had macaroni and cheese to fall back on,” he quipped.

Bill Flanagan’s Sunday Business Page

The temping of the workplace is becoming commonplace as companies emphasize core functions and contract out the rest. Now the trend is even showing up in the legal profession. A Pittsburgh company called The Legal Network is capitalizing on the opportunity by offering contract attorneys. Brad Franc is the President of Legal Network, Joe Silvaggio has worked as a contract attorney himself. Welcome, its nice to have you both.

Flanagan: So, you been around for a couple of years now?

Franc: We started actually in 1995 test marketing the idea but we went full force in 1996.

Flanagan: Well if you have a white collar job in Pittsburgh in one of the big companies you have heard about downsizing, rightsizing and not always in the happiest sense. What’s been happening in the legal profession that creates this opportunity?

Franc: Well a lot of things. I think the need to control costs- the just in time individual- and when a project is done what do you do with the particular employee when there is downsizing. What we have seen is in- house counsel as well as law firms looking to control costs, as well as on the other side many of the attorneys are looking for alternative work lifestyles. They don’t want to work the 40 or 60 hours a week and they want to look at different options.

Flanagan: We seem to have a lot of attorneys in Pittsburgh.

Franc: Actually we have more attorneys per capita anywhere in the United states except for Washington D.C.

Flanagan: How do you account for that?

Franc: I think its a result of it’s a nice place to live. I also think it’s a result that we have two law schools in the City of Pittsburgh and there is a lot of work, although some people would argue with that, there is a lot of work with the major corporations and many law firms.

Flanagan: Interesting. How did you get into working as an independent contractor.

Silvaggio: I started doing it actually to supplement my existing practice. I managed to find a law firm, which I am presently employed with now, that gave me the opportunity to do contractual work with them and from that you’re always looking to bring on a new client and to supplement your existing client base, and I was looking through, actually through the Pittsburgh Legal Journal and saw the Legal Network ad there and figured it was another good way to supplement my client base.

Flanagan: Was this something, you know, when you were going to law school, going to be a lawyer, envisioning that you would have this sort of independent relationship. I mean the typical model would be I am going to go work for a great big law firm, make a ton of money and have a steady job.

Silvaggio: That is I guess one of the common misconceptions that when one comes out of law school or goes to law school they think they are going come out and work for one of the top ten law firms in the city. When I came out of law school I wanted to gain as much experience as possible in the various fields of the law, and one way that has come to fruition has been through places like Legal Network and other firms that are willing to bring you on as a contract attorney or a part time attorney or an independent contractor. It gives the employer flexibility also because it saves them the medical benefits that they’ll have to pay a full time employee as well as the malpractice insurance, and so from a cost benefit approach it works for both the employer and gives the employee the flexibility to also do other aspects of the law that may interest him.

Flanagan: That’s a good question though. Whose employee is this? and whose responsibility is it if they screw up a case and wind up with a malpractice?

Franc: Many contract attorney organizations will treat the employee as an independent contractor but at Legal Network we treat them as our employees. That is a benefit to the hiring lawyer because they don’t have to worry about the FICA, the FUTA tax, the workers comp issues. We take that responsibility as well as that cost so that’s a savings there. With respect to malpractice, a lot of the attorneys will have malpractice insurance themselves. At many law firms, malpractice insurance carriers will allow the attorney on a contract basis to be added to their coverage. For in- house counsel it becomes really somewhat of a non- issue because they aren’t providing services to the general public- they are providing it to the corporation.

Flanagan: You must have to screen like crazy though to make sure that you can deliver the quality of person that your clients expect.

Franc: When we were developing our business process we developed something which we think is a relatively unique- which is a 3 tier process. We get the resume in, we go through a screening process, make sure their license is in good standing- whether there has been any disciplinary actions. We talk to them over the phone- we interview them. We touch these people three times before the candidate is placed in front of the clients, so that’s one of the benefits that we provide. We screen them, we set the pricing parameters and then within three to five business days of a request we will have candidates in front of people.

Flanagan: So if you are a potential client out there for legal services or a lawyer who is looking for some extra work, how do they get in touch with you.

Franc: Well we are certainly in the phone book and we advertise in the Pittsburgh Legal Journal so they can call us or look in the Pittsburgh Legal Journal.

Flanagan: The Legal Network, right

Franc: That’s right.

Flanagan: Brad Franc, President of the Legal Network, Joe Silvaggio Thank you both, Appreciate it. Thanks for coming by this morning.