The legal industry is in a rapid shift, moving away from its traditional model to more flexible and innovative options – including freelance lawyers.
Freelance lawyers help both individual lawyers and firms with flexibility and remote options. Here’s everything you need to know about how to become a freelance lawyer, what they do, and why now may be the perfect time to get started.
What Does a Freelance Lawyer Do?
Freelance lawyers don’t work full-time in a firm. Instead, they roll with the ebbs and flows of the legal industry by handling overflow legal work from firms. They may be hired by law firms, solo lawyers, or businesses to complete substantive legal projects for an hourly or flat fee.
A freelance lawyer can complete any of the tasks that a firm lawyer can, including drafting orders, preparing pleadings, performing research, and preparing for or representing clients in court.
Do Lawyers Freelance?
Lawyers can and do freelance. If this seems appealing to you, you’re not alone. More lawyers are moving to freelancing to have more control over work-life balance, more control over the amount and types of cases they handle, and more freedom in their work lives.
The legal industry is responding in kind by outsourcing legal work to freelance lawyers. According to a 2019 Altman Weil Survey, nearly half of all law firms use contract lawyers. The outsourcing market is growing across the globe as well, with a projection to reach $30 billion by 2027.
Benefits of Being a Freelance Lawyer
Before you make the leap into freelancing, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons to determine if it’s right for you.
- Flexibility: Set your own schedule and work in your own capacity as a freelance remote lawyer in your licensed state.
- Variety of work: Stay challenged and engage with a variety of different projects for diverse clients.
- No office politics: If you don’t like the competitive nature of law firms, freelancing keeps you out of office politics.
- Less predictability: There’s no guarantee as to what kind of work or how much work you can bring in, which can make your income and workload unstable.
- Fewer opportunities for mentorship: Part of the firm experience is getting mentorship from senior attorneys. You miss out on that as a freelancer unless you seek it out.
- Less assistance: As a freelance lawyer you won’t have the full support of law firm staff to support your workload. You can hire a virtual assistant or remote paralegal, but that costs extra money.
How to Become a Freelance Lawyer
Interested in becoming a freelance lawyer? Here’s what you need to do to become a part- or full-time freelance lawyer.
Get Malpractice Insurance
The most important step in becoming a freelance lawyer is getting malpractice insurance. While it’s important for you to verify that your hiring attorney or firm carries current and sufficient malpractice insurance, it’s smart to have your own insurance in case their insurer seeks indemnification for a malpractice claim on a case you worked on.
Can you be liable for your work on a freelance case? Well, that depends, but it’s best to have insurance up front in case the situation arises. Carrying a malpractice insurance policy also increases your reputation and shows potential clients that you’re professional.
There are numerous options for freelance lawyer malpractice insurance, but most are affordable. You have to have a good idea of what practice area you’ll focus on and the hours you expect to work to find the right policy.
Find the Right Technology
Your technology solutions are a key component of your success as a freelance lawyer. The advances in technology aren’t a benefit of being a freelance lawyer – they’re a driving force in freelance work becoming an option.
With technology, freelance lawyers can work remotely on projects from anywhere and at any time. At a minimum, you need a laptop, wireless access to high-speed internet, and a connection to a printer and scanner.
Another smart investment is legal practice management software that supports your work as a remote lawyer. Solutions like PracticePanther offer features to support your work for a remote law firm with legal case management, legal calendaring, automated workflows, document management, and time tracking.
Determine Your Rate as a Freelance Lawyer
Working as a freelance attorney gives you control over your rate and pay structure. You can charge an hourly rate or a flat fee per project, each of which offers benefits. Hourly rates ensure that you get enough pay for the time you put in, while flat-fee pricing offers transparency and expectations for both parties from the start.
Either way, how much you charge is based on factors like:
- Your years of experience
- The location where you practice
- Your specialty or general area of legal practice
- Tax rates and rules that apply to money earned as a self-employed worker
- How much notice the client provides for completing a project
Build a Book of Business
As a freelance lawyer, you will need a big book of business to ensure that you have a steady flow of work. This happens when you cultivate trusted relationships with clients and prospective clients via strategic legal marketing tactics, networking and cultivate trusted relationships with clients and prospective clients.
Having a book of business as a freelance attorney is similar to your book as a firm attorney. The only difference is that you have firms and hiring lawyers as clients, rather than direct clients. Book building is an ongoing process that’s based on building strong relationships with your clients.
Create a Freelance Profile
If you use a freelance lawyer platform to attract clients, you will need a freelance lawyer profile to showcase your skills and experience. Here are some tips:
- Highlight your strengths: Clearly show your background and what you can do with qualifications, experience, and the types of law you practice, as well as any areas of specializations.
- Use a strong profile photo: Like any online profile, your appearance sets the tone for the relationship. Use a professional photo with professional attire and a simple background that makes you look businesslike but approachable.
- Offer writing samples: Writing is a big part of being a practicing lawyer, so prepare to offer writing samples that showcase your expertise in this area. For example, if you plan to offer litigation work, use documents you’ve filed that are public record. If you’re focused more on transactional work, anonymize your writing samples to safeguard confidential information.
- Showcase your track record: The hiring attorneys don’t know you, so references go a long way toward selling your skills and performance. You can use traditional references that are included in your profile.
Understand Freelance Lawyer Contracts
A written contract is a must for your work as a freelance lawyer before you begin any project. If you’re relying on a freelance lawyer platform, this agreement may be built in, but the responsibility falls on you to make sure that you’re legally protected.
Be sure to include clear factors like agreed-upon compensation, scope, ethical and legal considerations, and a conflict check.
Building Relationships as a Freelance Lawyer
Building relationships has always been part of being a successful lawyer, but it’s even more important when you’re freelancing. Having firms that wish to work with you over and over is similar to having repeat clients as a firm attorney – you have to spend less time chasing down work.
Showcase Expertise and Specialization as a Freelance Attorney
As mentioned, showcase your expertise and specialization on your freelance profile, resume, and website. Highlight your relevant experience and qualifications to help hiring firms understand what you bring to the table.
Bring more attention to your freelance practice with thought leadership. Get articles published in industry publications or submit guest posts to legal blogs to get your name out there and draw attention to your services.
Networking is key to being a successful attorney, and that’s no different for freelance lawyers. Fortunately, networking offers more lucrative opportunities as a freelance lawyer, since your clients will be other lawyers.
Attend legal conferences and networking events to build and maintain positive relationships with other lawyers and legal professionals in your field. In doing so, you will advertise that you’re available for freelance work and firm overflow.
Outlook on Being a Freelance Lawyer
The legal industry is rapidly evolving to accommodate new challenges and demands. Whether you’re looking for new opportunities or you want more control over your work, now may be the perfect time to leverage your skills into a freelance lawyer role.
Download as PDF
Want a copy of this article? Download it for free!Download This Post