Are you thinking about leaving the traditional practice of law behind to become a freelance lawyer? Not sure where to start?
We’ve set out some considerations and important steps to start your freelance journey below:
Understand the Difference: Freelance Lawyer vs Traditional Lawyer
A freelance lawyer is a lawyer who, instead of working for one law firm or as a sole practitioner with their own clients, freelances for several law firms. In general, freelance lawyers do not take on end-clients of their own, but they help other lawyers with their overflow legal work.
Benefits of being a freelance lawyer include the flexibility of choosing how much work you want to do, and when and where you want to do it. As you are not an employee of the hiring law firm (but an independent contractor) you have greater control over the work you choose to do. Also, freelance lawyers have always had the freedom of working remotely either at home or in any exotic location with secure Wi-Fi!
A potential drawback of being a freelance lawyer is the lack of predictability of the workload. Freelance lawyers do not have the consistency of a regular paycheque. Some months may be very busy and profitable and other months may be slower. Freelancing can also be a bit isolating if you are on your own.
Gain Experience as a Traditional Lawyer Before Freelancing
It is important to gain some experience (at least a few years) practicing as a traditional lawyer before becoming a freelance lawyer. Freelance lawyers (as opposed to document review contract lawyers) assist with every aspect of a file from beginning to end. Hiring lawyers are often extremely busy and do not have time for handholding or mentoring and want to be able to delegate with confidence. Freelance lawyers need to have the experience and knowledge to be able to jump in and assist at any stage without significant instructions. Once you feel confident in your legal skills you are ready to start freelancing!
Stay In Good Standing with Your Professional Regulator and Insurance Provider
While freelance lawyers do not practice law in a traditional way, they are still practicing law. Make sure your relevant provincial law society status is accurate and up to date and your fees are paid. Also, while the hiring lawyer will have malpractice insurance, a freelance lawyer should have their own coverage to mitigate any risk.
Set Up Your Business
Being a freelance lawyer means you are a business owner; you are no longer an employee of a law firm. Review your province’s requirements and steps for registering your business (sole proprietorship or professional corporation) and register for a GST/HST account (if applicable).
Invest in accounting software (there are many affordable and even free options available) so you can keep track of your income and expenses and produce professional-looking invoices and set up a small business bank account. The good news: as freelance lawyers only work with other lawyers, and often only bill at the end of the project, many do not need or use a trust account.
Also, consider setting up a professional email account through Google (Gmail) or Microsoft (Outlook) with the name of your freelance practice (ex. firstname.lastname@example.org) to communicate with your lawyer clients.
Now that everything is ready to go, it’s time to go out and get some clients. There are two routes you can take: Do-It-Yourself or join a freelance lawyer platform (or both).
If you are a DIYer you will need a website summarizing your services (there are several simple and very affordable DIY options such as Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, or WordPress). Or, if you do not want to invest in a website, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date. Either option is good. You need at least one online source for potential lawyer clients to find you.
Advertise your services. Some potential options: Send an email to your lawyer contacts (law school friends, former colleagues, opposing counsel, etc.) and explain your services and how you can help; attend lawyer social events; set up networking coffees with other lawyers; consider writing articles or a blog to get your name out in the legal community; join social media and set up a digital marketing plan, etc.
Does this sound like too much work? You can always join a freelance lawyer platform like Flex Legal that does all of the advertising and marketing, business development, and networking for you so you can focus just on the legal work.
Questions? Reach Out
While being a freelance lawyer is not for everyone, many lawyers find freelancing to be an ideal and preferable way to practice law.
Have more questions on being a freelance lawyer or wish to hire a freelance lawyer to assist your practice? You can reach us here.
The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal or accounting advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal and accounting advice should be obtained.