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This article is written by Prateek Mudgal, Faculty of Law, Aligarh Muslim University. The article deals with everything you need to know about freelancing in the legal field and freelance attorneys. The article is divided into two main parts, the first one deals with the law aspirants looking for freelance work in the legal field. The second part deals with the methods of hiring and engaging with freelance lawyers.

Introduction

It is common for firms in the U.S and India to employ freelancers at different positions. Even law firms have been employing freelancers in different business positions for instance in human resource and support services, in works related to information technology. The concept of freelance attorneys seems quite weird at first but the fact is that they are actually at the rise in law firms, about the changing demands in the legal market. The word freelance in this sense means to be self-employed and to work with different companies on different short-term and sometimes long-term projects. The growth of freelancers in the legal world in the form of attorneys is conspicuous and legal firms are looking forward to such interim lawyers. 

Freelance attorney

Freelance attorneys are often confused with a contract attorney, it is due to the historical understanding of freelance attorneys. Contract attorneys are usually hired by legal firms to work on large-scale projects. They are paid on hourly-basis by the legal firm. On the same hand, freelance attorneys are the experienced attorneys who are hired by other attorneys to work on a small-scale project or some specific part of the case. Therefore freelance attorneys are independent contractors who engage in freelance law practices.  There are various advantages of being a freelance attorney, the freedom one have in freelance law practices is attracting more and more attorneys to this field. The flexibility in freelance attorneys is incomparable, the freelance attorneys are responsible for setting up their working hour, for bringing in their income and their client. Freelance attorneys can be from varied legal fields be it government positions, in-house counsel or solo-practitioners.

Getting started

A lot of material is present regarding becoming a traditional lawyer, but the information regarding freelancing legal services is quite scanty. Therefore it is necessary to know how one can start working as a freelancer. Certain important factors are crucial to one’s career as a legal freelancer. These important requirements are discussed hereafter.

Malpractice insurance

One of the most important things for a freelance attorney is to have malpractice insurance. Though it is the responsibility of freelance attorneys to verify that the hiring attorneys already have malpractice insurance that sufficiently covers the project at hand. But even if the hiring attorneys have the malpractice insurance it is important for freelance attorneys also, because if a malpractice claim is filed, then the hiring attorneys will ask for indemnification from freelance attorneys. The liability of freelance attorneys when the malpractice claim is filed is a completely different issue, but the freelance attorney must not risk the same. Apart from risking the cost of defending against the suit of malpractice, having malpractice insurance shows the professionalism of the freelance lawyer. This adds to the reputability of freelance attorneys and makes clients feel more secure.

Work Agreement

A written work agreement is also very important for freelance attorneys. The agreement should explicitly involve the term for the parties involved in the project. The agreement should contain the necessary legal consideration and protect the interest of both the parties, i.e freelance attorney and hiring attorney. In certain cases, the freelance attorney may be hired on an emergency basis where the parties may not get time to draft the interests of both the parties. And in certain cases, the strong formal relationship of trust between the parties also works fine. Even then it is beneficial to have a written work agreement for the hassle-free freelance experience.

Though the agreement should be such that it provides room for the interest of both the parties but a few of the essential components involved.

  • Scope of the undertaken project.
  • Compensation and Confidentiality.
  • Coverage of Malpractice Insurance and conflict-checking.
  • Work-product profit ratio.
  • Dispute resolution and termination.

Technology

This is one of the most general requirements if you are looking for a career as a freelance attorney. The best part about freelancing is that you get many vacations and can work from sitting on a beach. Doing this requires a lot of portable technology which includes a wireless connection to high-speed internet and a laptop with the basic software. A good smartphone is another need which is required. A printer and a scanner are also in the required technology. All this helps the freelance lawyer to deliver quality service to the clients, thus adding to the professional value of the freelance lawyer. The freelance lawyer also needs a subscription to various legal research sources that are available online. A few subscriptions are too costly to start with, but there are other options available which may fit the pocket.

Marketing strategy

This is one of the most important points to attract desired clients. A basic idea and framework about marketing strategy are very necessary to start practising as a freelance attorney. One of the most important tools for marketing is having an online presence, this tool helps clients to connect with freelance attorneys at the ease of home-comfort and apart from this having an online presence adds more to the professional profile of the attorney. Man is a social being, taking notice of the same. The other things that help the freelance attorneys the most are network and referral. The clients of the freelance attorneys are the hiring attorneys, therefore having contact and formal relationships with working attorneys help the freelance attorneys in the long run. Therefore it proves beneficial for the freelance attorneys to stay in touch with different attorneys this helps the attorneys a lot. It is quite symbiotic helping both the freelance and hiring attorney having a broad network.

The other and the 100% working market strategy is good service at a reasonable price. Whenever hiring attorneys are satisfied with the working of the freelance attorneys they happily refer the freelance attorneys to other hiring attorneys as well. This proves to be fruitful for freelance attorneys in enhancing their market.

Financial plan

Another important thing to ensure for Freelancers is to have a financial plan. Unlike the solo-practitioners and the law firms, a freelance attorney is not required to keep thorough details about the transactions and book-keeping to ensure proper accounts. But a systemized catalogue is also required by a freelance attorney. The first thing that freelance attorneys have to worry about is fixing the rates for different works. There are different ways by which a freelance attorney may charge. It can on an hourly basis or the basis of the nature of the project. No matter the way adopted by a freelance lawyer but the charges should be justified and not exorbitant. The price charged by free attorneys varies due to various factors. One of the chief factors being work-experience. The price charged by the freelance lawyer should be compatible with the working profile of the freelance lawyer. This would ensure that the freelancers are paid the right amount for the right amount of work.

One of the most important parts of a financial plan is its flexibility. The rigidity of the charges for the services irrespective of the requirements and ability of the client may prove detrimental to the freelance attorneys. Therefore the charged price by the freelance attorneys should be fluid and change according to the market environment and requirement of the client. In the starting, the maintaining and collecting income is not a very issue, but as the practice of freelance attorneys improves so does the profit margin. When the profit margin improves significantly then the attorneys are required to have proper accounting and bookkeeping.

                   

Diversity of career paths

After discussing freelance attorneys, it is necessary to give a brief description of other options in freelance legal advice. For a detailed insight into the career in freelancing, it is highly recommended to read this article, written by the founder of Ipleaders itself. He worked as a freelancer from the beaches of GOA!!! Freelancing can be really fun if you use a correct strategy.

Phone advisory

This is one of the easy ways to earn good money in the comfort of freelancing. The method involved in this type of freelance working is a step by step process. Initially, you would have to start with a blog or some good informative youtube videos. The viewers of your blog and youtube, if impressed, will try to contact you for personal advice. At the level of personal conversation, you can fix an amount that you will charge based on time. Interested viewers will contact you and will help you earn some bucks. For this job setting up a paid helpline number is also beneficial. The paid helpline number will add more bucks to savings.

Drafting for other lawyers

Goa has a special attraction especially to chill out your college fatigue. But what if you can work too from the beaches of Goa? No 9-5 Job timings, lots of freedom in aspects of work and otherwise. If it sounds great then drafting for other lawyers is the best-suited freelance job for you. Clients will pay you much more than what you can earn from this job, but working as a drafter for a lawyer can surely give you volumes of work. The other thing about drafting is that it is not time-consuming, you don’t have to negotiate with your client and understand their requirements. Apart from this, the best thing about this job is freedom of location, i.e. where you choose to work from. The drawback is lawyers won’t give you a lot of money. Where you can earn about INR 10k by drafting a contract for a client, a lawyer will hardly pay you INR 2k-3k. But if you manage to draft 20 such documents then you may end up with 40k-60k per month. One of the most important factors to succeed as a freelancer is to have formal relationships with 4-5 lawyers at least so that you have enough work to fetch some good money. 

Working for start-ups 

Start-ups in the initial years of being set-up don’t have a lot of funds to hire a full-time lawyer. Therefore such start-ups and small companies are continuously looking for legal advice and other projects via phone call at an affordable and a reasonable price. This serves best for freelance lawyers, and the work includes drafting policies, contracts and other employment-related work. Again to make this method work it is necessary to have at least 2-3 small companies or start-up to provide you with regular work. Such small companies and start-ups will not require physical presence because the amount charged for the service is not equal to what a full-time lawyer would have charged.

Content writing

The demand for content writing in the legal field is very high. It is very hard to find a good content writer who is experienced as well as capable of writing good and creative content. Law firms often require good content writers to write for their blogs, news alert, client alert, etc. hiring a lawyer for this job is very expensive. Apart from this, it is not always the case that a good lawyer is also a good content writer. The content should catch the attention of the readers and should be interesting and readable. Most lawyers write in legal language which is quite hard for a layman. This opens the opportunity for good content writers who can freelance as well. The only issue with content writing is the business development, to freelance as a content writer you have to expand your reach. Therefore, taking the help of online resources and connections can play a vital role in boosting up your freelance career. Once you establish yourself as a quality content writer and leave a mark on the readers, you are bound to get plenty of referrals. 

Youtube

Being a law YouTuber can help you if you seriously want to earn some good money along with the comfort of your couch. The law YouTubers are growing rapidly and there are tons of YouTubers having good amounts of following and subscriptions. These law YouTubers earn from the views on their youtube videos. Apart from this, they can also make a good amount of money by work referrals and thus providing lawyers with work. Brand advertisements add more to their savings and also can earn from the promotion of product and services related or unrelated to the legal world.

Marketing 

Law firms need marketing and they are constantly hiring market representatives. The employees included in the marketing are usually full-fledged. But there are certain works related to marketing which are appropriate for a freelancer. If the amount charged is reasonable and competitive then freelancers can be higher for the same.

Marketing involves a variety of work that can be content writing, conference submissions and content for participation in law firm awards. Some of the big law firms also provide opportunities for legal academic and research writing management of social media pages of the law firms is also another important work that can be done by the freelancer. The work includes branding of the firm and other marketing-related work.

Websites that help you find freelance jobs

There are various websites present which will help you to earn while working at the comfort of your couch. With growing technology, various websites have emerged catering to the specific needs of the users. Similarly, there are a few websites which cater specifically to legal freelancers. Hereafter, a few have been mentioned.

Working nomads

This website provides legal freelancers with jobs. Click here to visit the website.

Fiverr

On this website, lawyers provide service remotely. This website offers freelancers with various opportunities to provide service. One of the most demanded and popular services to offer is drafting terms and conditions for the websites. Other popular demands include drafting contracts and reviewing. Click here to visit the website.

Freelancer.com

This website offers highly paid jobs for freelancers. Drafting is in popular demand and it also provides patent-law related research work. To visit their Indian friendly website, click here.

Upwork

This is another popular freelancing website. To visit the website click here.

Legislone

Click here to visit the website. 

Everything about freelancing and how can one pursue freelancing in different fields has been discussed. There are various fields in which one can look for a freelancing job. Now it is important to understand how to avail the service of a freelance lawyer instead of becoming one.

Hiring a freelance lawyer

Reason for hiring

One of the most important things that you have to consider while hiring a freelance lawyer is to understand the work you are hiring the freelance lawyer for. If it’s your first time while hiring a freelance lawyer, the lawyer should be hired for a short and discrete project. Apart from this while hiring a freelance lawyer, one should go to the varied offered prices along with the skills required for the completion of the project. These are the basic points one has to keep in mind while hiring a freelance lawyer.

Finding a freelance lawyer

Even though the trend suggests that freelance attorneys are on a rise, finding a freelance lawyer is not that easy. Because the freelance lawyer has to be chosen based on the nature of the project involved and based on one’s budget, i.e. one’s hiring capabilities. Various reasons can be attributed to the growth of freelance lawyers, one of the main reasons being the freedom to work from remote locations or at the convenience of home. The increasing number of freelance attorneys increased after the great recession when full-time attorneys took freelance jobs not because of will but out of necessity. While finding a freelance lawyer following sources can be used:

  • First and the most important is using your network to find a freelance lawyer. You can look for your college batch, you can also look for your colleagues or other related to the legal field. If you are a full-time attorney you can also ask from your colleagues to provide you with diligent freelance lawyers.
  • There are websites where you can advertise for the requirement of a freelance lawyer some of the above-mentioned websites also cater to the needs of allowing you to find the perfect freelance lawyer for your project. Local bar journals also have certain ads providing service of a freelance lawyer.
  • There are some agencies which can also help in finding out the lawyer for you.
  • Other internet resources also help in finding a good freelance lawyer, this includes LinkedIn which is a growing source for professionals looking out for opportunities, along with this Avvo (dedicated to legal work) is also a good source.

Paying a freelance lawyer

Another important question that comes to mind when we hire a freelance lawyer is about paying the freelance lawyer. We have to understand that there is no hard and fast rule considering the amount one has to pay to the freelance lawyer. The payable amount varies with the amount of work to be done and the nature of the project.  Even then there are few things that one should keep in mind while hiring a freelance lawyer. Firstly, it is always helpful to fix an hourly rate that ensures you that the freelance lawyer is paid only for the work done by him. Hourly rates help the hiring attorney or small company to estimate the amount charged by the freelance attorney in the long run. It is very beneficial for small companies and start-ups who run short on funds and need to check their budget now and then. Another good method is to pay a certain percentage of the billable value. For instance, if the billable value comes out to be INR 10k then around30%-40% should be given to the freelance lawyer. 30%-40% of this will be 3k-4k for the freelancer. This amount is not much and perfectly does justice to the amount of work done by the freelance lawyer.

These factors are necessary to keep in mind while hiring a freelance attorney. Now it is time to understand the future scope of freelancing and trends in the legal world.

                  

Future and freelancing

According to an article, it is estimated that around 20-40% of the legal employees of the law firms will be freelancing within 5 years. That number is huge no doubt it is, again and again, reiterated that freelance attorneys are on the rise. We often look for a very limited number of things after graduation. Our options are not varied, for a law graduate they leave themself with 3 main options. Firstly get into the rat-race of applying for a job in corporate law in one of the firms. Secondly to start their solo-practising, which is hard if you are a first-generation lawyer. Thirdly to work as an in-house counsel. For a long period, this has been the trend. Law graduates had a very limited number of options back then, but now this is not the case if you try to get out of the rat-race. The one problem that lawyers have faced is the absence of opportunities to feed-up their entrepreneurial spirit. The options back then were fairly limited and the only option to choose an alternative was actually to leave the legal field altogether. 

The real problem was faced by female practitioners. Female practitioners had to leave the practice for quite some time while raising the children and their come-back to the legal industry was not an easy task. All such issues have been solved by the freelancing opportunities in the legal field. People who want to re-engage with the law and put their good legal skills to monetary use can now earn at the comfort of home.

There are plenty of opportunities in the legal field and the people are engaging in these with their interest and passion. Various new industries are emerging within the legal sector, and the emergence of a wider legal business world is quite visible.

Reasons for growth

The growth of freelance attorneys and the emerging career paths in the legal world is driven by two important factors. These are the economical changes and technological changes. The combination of these two have radically changed the landscape of law practice and has played a significant role in diverting new-comers from the old and traditional legal methods to new careers. Where economics and technology have played a significant role in dismantling the old-methods, the two have successfully contributed to cultivating radically new career choices and options. The one thing that one has to keep in mind is that the profit or plunge depends on the adaptability to law firms and other legal players. If they want to sound good, they have to be in tune with the current market needs. Apart from the marketing needs the legal players will also have to cater to the needs of the employees. These methods alone can ensure proper oxygen supply to the older methods. Economical factors clubbed by technology have ensured more output with lesser efforts. The comfort has been increased many times by the technology and the same has to be incorporated in different fields. According to an article, a law firm can keep 20 freelance lawyers instead of one permanent lawyer. This is huge, it is well known that freelancers can provide a great off-payroll solution and provide robust work to the firm. This difference can be yet another factor to increase the number of lawyers engaged in freelance work. It is clear that in the days to come to the legal industry will change a lot and to survive we have to adapt to that change.

Conclusion 

The growing technology and significant economic changes have led to the emergence of various careers in different fields. The legal field has also been under the effects of the same. The market trends suggest that freelancing in the legal field is bound to increase at a fast pace. Freelancing has been looked up by various graduates and practitioners who want flexibility in their working ethics. Not everyone wants to earn a huge sum by spending half of your life working every day from 9-5. With the growth of technology people are looking out for jobs that match their actual lifestyle. At the same time, law firms and attorneys are looking for freelancers who can provide them with quality work at an affordable price. To meet with the growing needs of the firms and to dispose of the heavy work of the attorneys. Catering to each other’s needs and establishing a symbiotic ecosystem the freelancing legal services are thriving in the new environment.

References


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