Think the term “freelance lawyer” is an oxymoron? Well, it might have been, back in the day when the legal profession’s delivery model had something to do with UPS. Back then, there were “contract lawyers.” Typically, they worked through professional staffing agencies, to be assigned to a specific task or complete well-defined projects for law firms. To many in the profession, contract lawyers were a group of substandard losers who couldn’t get a job. But I was always impressed by their freedom.
Today, of course, attitudes have changed. No longer losers, freelance lawyers fill the void between primary or in-house counsel and legal process outsourcing—popularly known as LPOs. In a world where clients are commanding outside counsel to reduce fees (which in turn means cutting costs), firms are seeking innovative ways to meet clients’ needs and continue providing the same level of quality and a satisfied client experience. While LPOs can be an attractive option, they are limited in the services they can provide to a firm. They can’t, for example, act as a second pair of eyes and suggest alternate legal points or theories. Freelance lawyers, on the other hand, often play a hands-on role in the development of case theory, and they can make court appearances and attend depositions.
Is there an opportunity here for you? As a freelance lawyer, you are the associate the firm doesn’t have. You have a flexible schedule and often work from the comfort of your home. And technology gives you the opportunity to work across jurisdictions, since it is the hiring attorney who will sign the documents you’ve created.
If this sounds good and you’re considering giving the freelance model a try, here are a couple of places to look for more information:
- National Association of Freelance Legal Professionals (NAFLP) is an organization that offers free teleconferences, guest speakers, resources and a community for freelancers to help them succeed.
- FreelanceLaw.com, NAFP’s sister site, connects law firms with freelance legal professionals via an online, searchable database.
- Legal Research & Writing Pro offers resources and products, and conducts live webinars by Lisa Solomon on practicing law as a freelancer.
Watch for my next installment, when I’ll examine the resources and characteristics of a successful freelance practice.
Donna Seyle is the founder of Law Practice Strategy, a coaching and training service and resource for lawyers seeking to establish a solo or small firm or wanting to take their existing practices into the 21st century.