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The Rise of Per Diem Lawyers: Meeting Legal Needs with Flexibility

Per diem lawyers are contract attorneys who handle court appearances, depositions and other tasks on a short-term basis for one or more law firms or attorneys. These lawyers are becoming increasingly popular, especially for small firms that cannot justify retaining full-time staff. A per diem lawyer can save a firm valuable time and resources by eliminating the need to travel for routine court hearings and depositions.

The New York State bar has clarified the role of per diem lawyers. In its April 2022 Opinion on “The Use of Per Diem Lawyers,” the Bar stated that, although they may be employed by a different law firm, per diem lawyers are still the agents of their clients and “represent them for purposes of complying with the Rules of Professional Conduct.”

In addition, the Opinion clarified that per diem attorneys can work in matters involving both personal and business clientele, and that there is no need to disclose that they are working on behalf of multiple clients. The Opinion added that the law firm’s relationship with the per diem lawyer is governed by New York law and “is no different from the traditional lawyer-client relationship.” The Opinion noted, however, that there are some situations where the work of a per diem lawyer might require the disclosure of confidential information.

A per diem attorney who works on a matter for multiple clients must obtain written consent from the clients before performing work on their behalf. The Opinion emphasized, however, that client consent is not required where the work performed by the per diem lawyer is “routine and non-substantive.”

As with full-time lawyers, a firm that hires a per diem lawyer must make certain that the hiring law firm is informed of the attorney’s rate, which should be stated on any letter of engagement. The Opinion also said that a law firm must obtain consent from the client if it intends to retain the per diem lawyer for more than one appearance in a matter.

Whether they are conducting a deposition or defending a witness, per diem attorneys can provide strategic support during discovery proceedings. Their local knowledge and familiarity with a particular court or county ensures that each appearance is handled efficiently, tailored to the nuances of the locale.

For instance, a per diem attorney with a deep understanding of Bronx courts can help your firm navigate the complexities of that county’s procedures. Per diem attorneys can also assist with complex family law matters, specialized commercial disputes or unique administrative hearings. They can step in when you need a partner to tackle an assignment that is beyond your comfort zone. To find a per diem lawyer that is ready to take on your next case, simply submit a job through ZRPD’s user-friendly app, and we will match you with an experienced per diem attorney. Our team will communicate with the assigned lawyer regarding all last-minute instructions and keep you updated on any significant developments.