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For lawyers looking to cut back on the grind, reduce hours, and/or escape the stress of associate life or running a solo/small practice, freelancing might be a viable option. Emphasis on the might.
Sure, the money may not be as good if you decide to pack it all in and start freelancing, but the tradeoff for the freedom you might find could make it worthwhile. On the other hand, if you're overworked, you can consider hiring a freelance attorney to help shoulder some of that load, as needed. Below, you can read about the emerging freelance lawyer industry and whether it is a good fit for you or your firm.
Freelance v. Contract Attorneys
While many of you are likely wondering what the difference is between a freelance and a contract attorney, it's really just one of those ambiguous naming conventions, like "of counsel." However, some explain that freelancers are independent, while contract attorneys work for agencies, though as you likely know, this isn't necessarily a fact.
In the end, if you want to be technical about it, a freelance attorney is a contract attorney that works for themselves, or serves as their own agency, or maybe it's just a lawyer that calls themselves a freelance attorney rather than a contract attorney because it sounds cooler.
Are There Successful Freelance Attorneys?
While there are many successful freelance attorneys out there living the work/life balance dream of flexibility and adequate pay, it is no easy path. One of the bigger issues that arises for new freelancers is a lack of specific experience, or a solid network, which can result in being passed over for many projects.
However, as new technology is emerging to help connect attorney freelancers with projects, freelancers can highlight their relevant experience to potential attorney/law firm clients. For the attorneys using them and the firms hiring freelancers, these new platforms have proven to be very helpful, and many experienced attorneys turned freelancers can reap the benefit of their experience and charge a premium for it.
Hiring a Freelancer?
For the firms looking to hire freelancers, price may be one of the worst reasons to do so. New attorneys and those that don't have enough or any relevant experience are often the ones with the most competitive rates for two very good reasons: The work will take longer and won't be as good. Young and inexperienced freelancers need to have an elevator speech prepared to address this issue.
When hiring a freelancer, firms should consider the specific attorney's relevant experience, and should spend the time to review their CV, a writing sample of the same variety they'll be producing (pleading, memo, demand letter, etc.), and have a frank conversation (over the phone) about the project. Generally, freelancers that produce high-quality, finished-product work-product are going to cost more, as are those who don't need you to provide access to online legal research tools, or malpractice coverage.
In the end, going with the cheapest freelancer might not be the most economical option, especially if you have to spend a significant amount of your own time revising their work, or providing resources to.