This summary is written by Veena Chandra, from HNLU, Raipur.
The Guest- Soumya Shekhar
She has completed her Graduation from National Law University, Delhi and went on to pursue her master’s degree from National University of Singapore in Corporate and Financial Services law. In a humble attempt to follow her passion for writing, she forayed into the field of legal research and writing. She is an independent legal research professional. She also provides knowledge management and content creation services for legal startups. She is also involved in drafting course content for universities and online platforms.
As a Freelancer she is working for AZB & Partners, LawSkills, Oxford University Press India to name a few and offering her valuable services to them.
The Host- Arjun Mohandas
He is a recent graduate from Government Law College, Thrissur with a Knack for Technology Law. He is very passionate about Blockchain & Crypto regulations which motivated him to pursue a LawSikho’s diploma course on Cyber Law, Fintech Regulations and Technology Contracts. Previously as an Intern he has also worked with Lawsikho, DayOrg Consulting Group, he is currently working for Infusory Future Tech Labs Pvt Ltd.and TechLegis Advocates and Solicitors to name a few and offering his services to them as an Intern.
The main content in Q&A format. (Including the audience’s questions and answers are given)
Question 1: We have International Platforms like Up counsel for getting legal work, so do we have a similar platform in India too?
Answer 1: I haven’t used any one of them but the Freelancer is one of them, I’m not sure if it’s India based or a global platform but freelancers have a lot of advertisements on its site about the Indian companies who want to engage with freelancers and have both and legal content creation, contracts drafting and blog content creation etc kind of work so I leverage freelancer frequently to leverage work from there.
Question 2: What kind of Essentials skills is one required to have, in order to pursue a career in Legal Freelancing?
Answer 2: So there are Legal Skill and Non-Legal Skills both that are required to be a Legal Freelancer. In terms of legal freelancers, it depends on the services that you’ll be offering. For example, you are offering your services in contract drafting then you are required to know all the basics of it like, what is the difference pledge and indemnity or when can a contract be made enforceable what are the section that mentions the same; it is because as a part of the organisation you’ll be having a ready template but as a freelancer, you’ll have to do it form the Scratch so for that matter you’ll have to know all the basics of the law that you might be working on. As a freelancer, you won’t be getting the working on only one type of law but you would be required to work on different laws and for that, you’ll be required to know the basics of different laws. For Non-legal work, you should start advertising and showcasing your work as much as possible and make connections in that order to get work.
Question 3: Can you tell us about your client profile and what kind of client approaches you for legal work?
Answer 3: Mostly they are Law Firms, Legal Startups, Universities and off late I have been getting few offers from foreign firms who are just about to start their operations in India. Mostly for foreign firms, the work I do is Legal Content marketing sort of thing, the startups generally ask for contract drafting work like creating templates for them and creating employment agreements and they also want some knowledge management services for their employees as well like creating modules and videos lectures etc.
Question 4: How Often do Companies and Legal Startups outsource their work in India and who can freelancer grab such an opportunity?
Answer 4: So basically the Legal firm might not outsource their core legal work so the work that you get from a law firm could be Knowledge management, could be Content Creation, maybe creating a blog and maintaining the same but not the core and technical services that they actually offer as a firm. Apart from this are also a lot recruitment firms for example vahura which has relaunch programme which basically connects the freelancers, part-time workers to someone who looking for such people and vahora mostly deals with law firms and there is a lot of law firm works that come to me through that, so that is also something which people can look up to that.
Question 5: So ma’am since you have worked as an independent legal researcher and practitioner for different firms and companies and also as an in house counsel how are you able to maintain the work-life balance?
Answer 5: It all depends on whether you want the money or the balance, If you want the work-life balance it’s the same here, and it’s the same in firms as well. As a freelancer, it’s very essential for you to stick to the deadline and not make the clients realise that just because this person is working from home and is not affiliated to a particular organisation is not taking his or her work seriously. For example, you have 10 clients and 6 deadlines coming up then, high or hell you have to finish it and meet the deadline.
In the case of freelancing, you can always choose your clients and can say no if you think you might not finish it on time.
A piece of Personal advice I would like to give you that it is better to not take up so much work if you aren’t in a position of finishing it because that might affect your quality of work and your reputation as well.
Question 6: So ma’am if I’m a law student and interested in becoming a legal freelancer so how should one plan his life in aw school and what aspects should he concentrate?
Answer 6: I would suggest you do primarily three things:
- Be well versed with the important statutes of every law that you read at your law school. By this I don’t mean learn everything I just mean that you should be aware of these statues because as a freelancer you would be required to deal in multiple domains.
- Contract drafting is one of the essential skills that you must learn on your own. I would suggest as a Law student you should go through as many templates as possible relating to contracts. Read and understand what goes behind it, read the related legal sections associated with these clauses and take the help of a senior or someone to understand how it works. So when you pass out of your law school you would actually have that skill in hand and you would know how to draft a contract.
- Offering freelancing services while you are in law school would prove to be a plus point on your part because that would actually make you understand how the industry works and what kind of work you might be able to get.
Question 7: So considering legal services in India do you think Legal Freelancing is a viable Long term career option and what types of risks are associated with it?
Answer 7: Yes there are risks associated with it with respect if you don’t have clients already with you. But I know the situation is going to change because of the cost-friendly factor especially for the startups who would want to review, draft and get their contracts done which would require them to hire a person for full time work. The work can come from this channel as well. The other channel being the Knowledge Management services and right now, because the work from home is turning out to be pretty successful and they would also require someone to maybe teach their team regarding some specific law which can be done through video lectures as well. These are some services that doesn;t require a person to be hired for a full time job.
Question 8: As a freelancer why is it important to make good networking and how can you get a job from there?
Answer 8: The most important thing for all law professionals is to have a LinkedIn profile of their own because from there you’ll be able to approach people and seek help in that regard, by that analogy, you’ll also be able to learn the practical implications that are related to this field. As a current law student you might not be having a lot of practical legal skills so form LinkedIn you’ll be able to showcase the places you worked and Highlight the particular skill that you have gained and connect with people and later on they will remember you, when you offer them your services and in fact, they might even help you in developing your skills further in that domain. So, When you mention any skill in your profile it is also very important to talk about the skills which you can do, by regularly posting related content on it that you offer and talk about the knowledgeable aspect of that skill, also you must regularly comment on people’s account and talk to them and in case of any doubt approach the senior professionals in your domain and that what is going to give you visibility.
Question 9: Can you point out some potential advantages of freelancing and especially when compared to being an associate in a law firm, in house counsel or even a litigator?
Answer 9: I feel there are two major advantages will working as a Freelancer-
- A freelancer would not be dealing only in one particular law but you’ll be getting work from diverse areas which helps you learn different laws as well and not only a particular law because for example when I started working as a freelancer I used to deal mostly in corporate laws and contracting drafting and I never thought would deal in tax but when it came I did it and now I have clients you deal 3-4 clients who in tax matters.
- The most important thing that you have is the power to say “No” so in this field you are a master of your own work and you hold the sole power to say no if you have too much work or don’t feel like doing it.
Question 10: Ma’am, since you highlighted Contract drafting as one of the essential skills, can you tell about what essential type of contract drafting do you draft for your clients, which are also high on demand?
Answer 10: I have mostly dealt with commercial procurement contracts other than that I have also dealt with employee sweat equity agreements, Terms & Condition Policies for websites, Employment agreement, consultancy agreements, non-disclosure agreements etc. However, the most frequent contract drafting work that the freelancers would get is the software licensing agreements because of the emerging tech startups and digital revolution around the country and I advise you start reading up more that kind of agreements
Question 11: How important is a specialisation in the field of Freelancing? Or Does it limit the Field itself?
Answer 11: It actually depends on the person to person. It would be very great if a person is offering specialized services to its client and as I have mentioned earlier that contract drafting is one of those services that would be required by everyone contract drafting being one of the most important skill, there are clients who would need this particular to be offered to them you’ll definitely be getting a lot of work in this area then. I feel that freelancing is not a watertight compartment sort of field; it’s vast and one should always be willing to learn and perform different and new things.
Question 12: What are the Drawbacks of being a Freelancer?
Answer 12: The greatest drawback while working as a freelancer will be being able to get stability because the work that will come your way will not be coming regularly. It might happen that someday you have work to do and someday you don’t. So yes this is one the biggest drawbacks while working as a freelancer. The other factor is the risk involved with this stability: the amount of payment that you might receive might not be the same as last time. This is why in the very beginning of the webinar I said that you should be willing to take up different opportunities and learn in the process and for getting work you should be active because if a person is working in a law firm he knows that over the years he be doing a same sort of work but as freelancer you can’t afford to get inactive or lax because you have a reputation to build of your own and you have to be in top of our game which is not related to anyone particular field but different fields and that’s why a freelancer has to put his 250 % of efforts to manage it.
Question 13: Being a Freelancer is like being his own entrepreneur and one needs to show and market his skills to the outside world, so apart from linkedin what are the other ways through which he can do the same?
Answer 13; One start publishing he/her work on various blogs which have lots visitors and from there people will start reading your articles and your work and by that they will start recognising your work so that is one of the most viable option for building your reputation in the job market of freelancing apart from linkedin. Also there are a lot of student lawyer circle groups in whatsapp where you might get the chance to connect different people on one to one basis and interact with them about your work and related aspects of it. You’ll also get various opportunities from there rearing jobs and other opportunities as well and also about the current changes in the legal industry.
Question 14: Do you think there is any particular sector that is more reliant on freelancers?
Answer 14: I feel the IT is more reliant on Freelancers hence there is a lot of contract drafting work and since it being the bread and butter of the freelancers there is a lot of work that comes through that sector. There are also a lot of small startups who don’t want to feel like engaging in appointing a legal counsel and for that matter they outsource their work to freelancers which are typically based on licensing agreements and related ancillary drafting work.
Question 15: How can a Law student start freelancing work during his law school time?
Answer 15: The student should go step by step in order to make the best out of this in his law school. the student should start by reading on particular topic if he or she wants to do freelancing work in the particular field suppose if a person is wanting to work in tax law then he or she should start reading on that particular subject to get the basic idea of it and then slowly move towards reading articles and books on the same to understand the writing patterns and partialities of it and the author’s mindset as well which will ultimately give you an upper hand your writing and researching skills as well. After improving skills he/she should start writing on the issues of interest and try promoting their content across various platforms and getting them published on various journals and blogs. By this process they’ll be getting noticed by others and would give them an upper hand in securing the work.
Question 16: As a legal freelancer do you take pro bono work also or do you give them some other option as well to choose the amount of payment that they can make for your work?
Answer 16: So for this I have three costing models and I charge them according to that. One is for the high paying clients one is for the medium and one is for the people who have less resources So in the very beginning I give them an option to choose from it which is a good and a democartic way of dealing with your client where they also feel that they are getting their right to choose among all this. So for example if a client comes and I know that their company started just 2 years ago so I know that they don’t have enough resources for the legal fees, so as a prudent person I understand that and hence I ask them to pay accordingly.
Question 17: Ma’am what can you advise Freelancers in particularly this period of time when a period of lockdown is going on and culture of work from home is rapidly increasing?
Answer 17: The one thing that most of the firms are looking forward in this particular period of time is for the content creation for their blog because they are viewing this period of time a time to market themselves and so the scope of content marketing is in full pace as this time and freelancers can get work for this area as well. The other thing that freelancers can get work from is Knowledge Management because there are lots of webinars going on and even law schools asking people to create courses then it is also an opportunity for the freelancer that they might get engaged in.. The Dimensions of this time have become somewhat now focused on spreading legal education rather than doing some core legal work so yes legal freelancers will get engagement from these particular areas.
Questions from Audience
Question 1: Are there any legal implications while working as a freelancer?
Answer 1: When contract drafting is being done by a Freelancer; it is not only done by them, but it is something which is done by both Law students and Lawyers. Similarly, by freelancing you won’t be getting only Legal work but you’ll also be getting work in content writing, content marketing etc. So in regards to that there are no legal repercussions of the same.
Also, its suggestive to enter into a contract with the client which has risk mitigation and liability mitigation clause in it, which would ensure that you won’t be held liable if in case something happens and client puts blame on you for your lack of services then you would be having this contract as proof to counter any future uncertainty in regards to the same.
Question 2: Since you suggested that the startup gives a lot of work to clients, is there a need to enter into a contract with them?
Answer 2: Yes in order to avoid any payment issues or work non-completion of work in time, for that you should enter into a contract which would ensure that you don’t land in any trouble with respect to the above-mentioned problems. So with them you should ideally enter into a small consultancy agreement, or maybe a small MOU so that later on there are no legal issues emanating from the same.
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