When attorney Nicole Bradick cut her work hours to care for her two children, she quickly became a therapist of sorts for other moms who wanted advice on how to scale back their legal workloads.

“I gained a reputation for someone who was in this situation. I became a sounding board for mom lawyers in Maine,” Bradick said. “So few women ask for what they want. There’s a lot to be done on the employer side, but we need to be better on the employee side, too.”

After advising many women on how to approach their firms about working part time, and hearing more and more stories about moms who needed a better balance of work and life pressures, Bradick said she had a eureka moment. That led to the launch of CustomCounsel LLC in January.

“A lot of women, it was clear, were going to burn out. But you work so many years for this degree, it’s crazy to leave,” Bradick said.

What started as a legal group to help moms strike a better work-life balance in their law practice has grown into a mix of both men and women of all ages who want to manage their lives differently. Bradick started with three lawyers, but the group has grown quickly and currently has 12 lawyers. The attorneys, who each have five to 10 years of experience, work as independent contractors.

Bradick, 31, currently works two days a week at the offices of Murray, Plumb & Murray of Portland. She juggles two toddlers and oversees CustomCounsel on her days off.

The range of services provided by CustomCounsel ranges from doing research and writing, preparing motions, covering hearings and providing local counsel for out-of-state firms. In addition to doing short-term projects, CustomCounsel also often helps solo legal practitioners juggle large cases, and provides a way for large firms to outsource work for less money.

“We try to have every area covered, from bankruptcy to family law to workers’ comp. We have geographic diversity. If you need someone in Ellsworth to cover a trial, we can do that,” Bradick said.

J. Miller & Associates of Concord, N.H., has used CustomCounsel about a dozen times on a range of assignments, such as helping to handle the workload gap created by an attorney who left the firm, and handling a hearing in a location that was impractical to staff.

“It gives you flexibility to handle a situation that would normally be much more difficult or costly to handle internally,” said Jeremey Miller of J. Miller & Associates. “You don’t need to have an attorney in a location if you can have it handled properly for you.”

Miller said he felt comfortable that CustomCounsel knew the areas of law and had the experience to handle assignments.

Bradick said she’s had to turn away some lawyers seeking to join CustomCounsel because they didn’t meet the standards she wanted for the group.

“It’s a highly curated group. It’s important to provide the same consistency and standards,” Bradick said.

Unlike legal temporary agencies that often use new graduates or lawyers with minimal experience at firms, CustomCounsel takes only experienced lawyers. Many are moms who want to work part time, and some are dads who want to practice law but still be able to see their kids’ soccer games. Others have retired from legal firms but still want to practice law.

“It’s an untapped, highly experienced labor pool who has opted to strike a different balance of life and work,” Bradick said.

Bradick, who attended the University of Maine School of Law, has grown the business through personal contacts, benefiting from the tight-knit nature of the Maine legal community.

“I see this as a shelter for people. A lot of these lawyers want to take a step back for a short time and then go back to full-time situations. If the goal is to take a brief break while you’re juggling something else, you still want to keep your skills sharp and your toe in the water,” she said.

“The mission for the project is to be an alternative to law firm life,” Bradick said. “We can help solo practitioners and law firms increase profits and cut costs.”

The benefits for the clients are compelling, Bradick said. CustomCounsel charges less than a practicing attorney at a firm. For example, CustomCounsel may charge $80 to $100 an hour for an assignment, compared with a rate of $180 to $200 at a traditional firm for a lawyer with five years of experience.

Also, the hiring firm doesn’t pay a fee to CustomCounsel, because Bradick receives 20 percent of her contractors’ rate.

CustomCounsel’s lower rates “definitely makes it more feasible to use them,” Miller said.

Marketing CustomCounsel takes a big chunk of Bradick’s time. She bought a print ad, ran articles in journals and called lawyers who might need help. The most effective way to get new clients, she has found, is meeting face-to-face.

“People don’t care about a print ad. They want to meet you and talk to you,” Bradick said.

She plans to expand CustomCounsel to the Washington, D.C., area this summer and may consider other markets down the road.

“Standing out in the D.C. market will be difficult. There are a lot of big law firms with really exceptional pedigrees,” Bradick said.

Still, she hopes the D.C. market will be fruitful because there’s no firm that does what CustomCounsel does, she said. There are legal temporary agencies, but no similar group offering lawyers with five or more years of experience, she said.

Bradick doesn’t see CustomCounsel ever growing and overtaking her work at Murray, Plumb & Murray. She hopes to be able to manage CustomCounsel’s growth, along with her traditional legal practice and family.

“It’s manageable,” Bradick said. “Life is completely insane, don’t get me wrong. But something happens to you when you have a child — you instantly become superhuman. The universe gives you strength for a certain period of time.”

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

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