Flex Legal's Founder & CEO, Erin Cowling, was recently interviewed by Immigration Lawyer, Evelyn Ackah, for Evelyn's podcast "Ask". Erin and Evelyn discuss the story of Flex Legal, the opportunities and obstacles of entrepreneurship, and what is next for Erin and the Flex Legal Network.
Find the episode HERE
Access more episodes of the "Ask Canadian Immigration Lawyer Evelyn Ackah" podcast HERE
It’s one of those days.
It’s 6:30pm, you’ve worked all day, and you have not checked off one single item on your already too long “To-Do List”.
Where did the day go?
It was filled with “stuff” preventing you from finishing what needs to be finished.
You know you need help, but you do not want the headache and overhead costs that comes with hiring a full-time associate.
So, you just keep doing the work yourself. . . . . And losing more and more of your personal time.
We’ve been there. We understand.
And, that’s why our freelance lawyers can help you get out of this rut!
We can give you the experienced legal assistance you need, without the long-term commitment of a full-time employee.
Flex Legal’s freelance lawyers were all trained at top firms or in-house legal departments across Canada. They’ve all practiced as “real” lawyers (on average 5-10 years) before starting freelance practices. They know the stresses of running a practice, dealing with clients, staff, the court, opposing counsel, IT problems, and countless other issues that can interrupt your day.
And those years of experience do not come with a hefty price tag. Freelance lawyers have lower overhead costs, which results in below market rates. Hiring lawyers can then bill out the freelance lawyer's time at reasonable market rates to their clients.
Hiring a freelance lawyer on an as-needed basis allows you to:
Have a few items on your to-do list you want to check off? Reach out and start delegating now.
Then take that afternoon off and relax.
Flex's founder, Erin Cowling, was a guest on Catherine Shearer's Happy Lawyer podcast.
On the episode, Erin and Catherine talk about:
· Erin's journey from big law to unemployment to becoming a freelance lawyer and creating Flex Legal
· Lawyer struggles with mental health
· The importance of finding your values
· Identifying what isn’t working in your career
· The importance of creating a network
· How to make networking less daunting & more fun
You can listen to the episode HERE.
Are you looking for some law student help with your busy law firm but not necessarily a full-time law student? We have a solution for you.
While Flex Legal provides advanced freelance legal services (our freelance lawyers have between 5-20 years of post-call experience) we wanted to introduce you to a new freelance service by law students at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law (Common Law). With the global pandemic many students lost their summer jobs or had their hours reduced significantly. To assist these students, the University has created a program to connect law firms and students through freelance opportunities. According to the University:
“This initiative pairs employers in need of short-term support with students eager to build on their practical experiences. The Career and Professional Development Centre will post freelance or short-term contract opportunities for law students. These contracts could, for example, be for a single piece of research, remunerated on an hourly basis, with a set number of hours allocated to the work.”
A student can also assist a lawyer or law firm with: social medial marketing, blog post drafting, website updates, client outreach, customer satisfaction surveys, etc.
We thought this would be a great opportunity to introduce our clients to this initiative and encourage you to take advantage of it if you have student level work to outsource.
You can find more information on the initiative here.
If you would like to post a short-term opportunity for students, you can fill out the form at the following link. The University then makes the information available to their students. The University will not post unpaid positions.
For any questions, please feel free to contact Chantal Riendeau (email@example.com) at the Career and Professional Development Centre.
This service is provided directly through the University of Ottawa. Flex Legal is not profiting from this initiative. We are happy to do our part, give back to the community, and support these students who need our help. Flex's founder, Erin Cowling, is also the Regional Alumni Advisor (Toronto) for the University of Ottawa (Faculty of Law).
Check out Erin's interview with Vivene Salmon, President of the CBA and fellow law-preneur, Kim Gale for The Everyday Lawyer Podcast.
Erin, Kim and Vivene talk about going solo and the challenges and rewards of starting your own practice:
To assist it's member, the OBA asked us to write an article on our remote working and work-from-home tips. A quick preview of our five top tips:
You can read the full article and details on each tip here. It was a pleasure to share our experience with other lawyers.
As we work remotely 100% of the time, it's business as usual around here - please reach out if you are a lawyer looking for help with your overflow legal work. Our experienced freelance lawyers are available to assist. We offer a wide variety of services at competitive prices.
This is the second post in our series on the “Ethics of Freelance Lawyering”. This post examines best practices to avoid conflicts of interest while freelancing or when hiring a freelance lawyer. (Our first post was on Confidentiality)
What should Freelance Lawyers do to Avoid Conflicts of Interest?
Avoiding conflicts of interest is an important duty for all lawyers, especially freelance lawyers who by nature are working for a number of lawyers or law firms with a number of end-clients.
Rule 3.4-1 of the Law Society of Ontario’s Rules of Professional Conduct outlines a lawyer’s “Duty to Avoid Conflicts of Interest”:
3.4-1 A lawyer shall not act or continue to act for a client where there is a conflict of interest, except as permitted under the rules in this Section.
Conflict of interest is defined under Rules 1.1-1:
“Conflict of Interest” means the existence of a substantial risk that a lawyer’s loyalty to or representation of a client would be materially and adversely affected by the lawyer’s own interest or the lawyer’s duties to another client, a former client, or a third person. The risk must be more than a mere possibility; there must be a genuine, serious risk to the duty of loyalty or to client representation arising from the retainer.
Each province has a similarly worded rule, as does the Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s Model Code of Professional Conduct.
All our freelance lawyers who take on legal work are called to the Bar in at least one province in Canada and licensed with the law society or regulator of that province. This means that they all must abide by any applicable Rules or Code of Professional Conduct.
To abide by the Rules, a freelance lawyer cannot work on projects for different firms where the end-clients could be deemed to be adverse in interest to each other. Likewise, a freelance lawyer cannot assist one firm in a matter substantially related to (or the same as) a previous matter formerly handled for a different firm where the former and current client have materially adverse interest to each other.
The Law Society of Ontario provides best practices when hiring a “Contract Lawyer (or Paralegal)” to act as a locum for lawyers who take extended leaves from their solo practice. While this is a different situation than freelancing (locums or contract lawyers “step into the shoes” of the hiring lawyer and work directly for and represent the end-client; freelance lawyers work remotely, only under the supervision of the outsourcing lawyer, and with likely no end-client contact), the LSO provides the following indirect guidance:
The same rules apply to the Contract Lawyer or Paralegal and to the contracting firm/lawyer/paralegal. The Contract Lawyer or Paralegal must set up a system to check for conflicts prior to working on the contracting firm/lawyer/paralegal's files. A Contract Lawyer or Paralegal needs to keep a list of clients to whom he or she has provided legal services during all Contract Lawyer or Paralegal projects. The Contract Lawyer or Paralegal must ensure that no conflict exists between his or her present clients and those to whom the Contract Lawyer or Paralegal provided legal services during all past Contract Lawyer or Paralegal arrangements or in his or her separate practice, if one exists.
Therefore, to avoid the potential for conflicts, freelance lawyers maintain a list of current and former lawyer/law firm clients and the name of the end-clients those firms are assisting. Before commencing any project, a freelance lawyer will complete a “conflicts check”, just like any other lawyer taking on work.
What can Outsourcing Lawyers do to Avoid Potential Conflicts When They Hire Freelance Lawyers?
In the United States, the American Bar Association has provided helpful assistance for best practices for outsourcing legal work to freelance lawyers, including information on avoiding conflicts of interest. According to “ABA Formal Opinion 88-356 – Temporary Lawyers”, the analysis of whether conflicts are imputed as between a freelance lawyer and a hiring firm turns on whether the freelance lawyer is deemed to be “associated” with the hiring firm. The most important factor to determine “association” is whether the freelance lawyer has access to information related to the representation of firm clients other than the client on whose matters the freelance lawyer is working.
Courts in Canada have also confirmed the presumption of imputed knowledge between partners and associates at the same firm and where lawyers work in “association” but hold themselves out to the public as a law firm (without taking the required steps to inform the public that the lawyers have separate practices, take proactive steps to avoid conflicts, etc.). Neither of these situations apply where the freelance lawyer is brought on only to work on one particular aspect of a file, under the supervision of the lawyer, works remotely, does not have access to the other files at the firm, does not appear on the firm’s website or letterhead, etc.
Best practices dictate that freelance lawyers should only have access to the file or files they are assisting with or only the documents necessary for completion of the agreed upon projects. The freelance lawyer should not have access to any other files belonging to the outsourcing law firm. By limiting access to only the documents needed for the task at hand, the freelance lawyer is denied access to files that could create an association or potential for conflicts. Fortunately, technology is available for file sharing or remote access to only specific files or documents.
Freelance lawyers should also have a freelance lawyer agreement in place outlining the specific duration of the project and scope of work and clarifying that the freelance lawyer is an independent contractor and not practicing in association with the firm.
What about Flex Legal? Does it check for conflicts?
Flex Legal is not a law firm and is not retained on any of the projects, nor is anyone who manages Flex. While Flex works closely with lawyers or law firms who hire our freelance lawyers to ensure quality control and satisfaction with the work produced, Flex does not have access to any of the confidential documents, information, or work products. This eliminates the potential for conflicts of interest to arise.
Hope this helps clarify any questions you may have about conflicts of interest and freelance lawyering. If not, please feel free to contact us!
 See “Tips for Hiring a Contract Lawyer”, Law Society of Ontario website: https://lso.ca/getdoc/ab5868f6-8b2b-424f-b4d0-42d7063b004b/tips-for-hiring-a-contract-lawyer-or-paralegal
 See https://lso.ca/getdoc/d528d5ae-10c1-4f2c-8650-5b32c8c91417/ethical-issues-and-practice-management
 MacDonald Estate v. Martin,  3 SCR at 1235.
 Jajj v 100337 Canada Ltd 2013 ONSC 5743, Performance Diversified Fund v Flation GP Group, 2016 ONSC 1133 (DIv Ct).
Note: This article provides an overview only for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice.
Photo by Andrew Pons on Unsplash
“What (the heck) is a freelance lawyer?” I believe that is a direct quote from my Mom when I told her I had become one. So Mom (and anyone else who might be curious), here is a brief rundown of what freelance lawyering is all about.
As a freelance lawyer, my clients are other lawyers, law firms or in house counsel (in layperson’s terms this means the legal departments of companies). I am not employed by these lawyers, law firms or in house counsel but instead, am an independent contractor providing services to them. I have a non-exclusive arrangement with all of them, meaning that I am free to work with others, at my discretion. The type of work varies and timeframes can range from a one-off project, stepping in for a finite period of time while a lawyer is on vacation or acting for the lawyer’s client on an ongoing basis. Sometimes a lawyer will call me because they simply hate reviewing and editing contracts. Not me. That is one of my favourite type of files.
Being a freelance lawyer has a lot of advantages - flexibility, working remotely, autonomy (to name a few) but also has its challenges - no fixed income, no job security and no colleagues down the hall to discuss the latest legal developments and/or the latest episode of the Bachelor (to name a few).
Despite the risks involved with being a freelance lawyer, it is a career that is immensely fulfilling. I get to practice the areas of law that I want to practice, with clients I enjoy and on my schedule. And being my own boss is pretty cool too!
Hopefully this post has helped to shed some light on what freelance lawyering is all about. Mom, if you’re still unsure, just give me a call!
Thanks Amy for this great contribution to our blog.
Amy Grubb is a corporate /commercial freelance lawyer with Flex. For more information on Amy's legal experience and how she can help lawyers/law firms/in-house legal departments click here.
Do you work from home or hope to work from home more often?
As freelance lawyers who work remotely we know it is not always easy. You can read some of Erin's tips for successful remote working for freelance lawyers (and regular lawyers alike) in the article: The Lawyer's Guide to Working from Home in Precedent Magazine's Fall 2018 Issue.
Do you have any other suggestions for a better remote working experience?
Ever wonder what it is like to be a freelance lawyer (a lawyer who assists other lawyers, law firms, and in-house legal departments with their overflow legal work)? Our freelance lawyer Amy Grubb has written this informative blog post to give you a glimpse into a day in the life of a freelance lawyer:
As with most legal positions, no day as a freelance lawyer is ever quite the same. Here is a snapshot of a random day in my life as a part-time freelance lawyer.
5:30 am: I am not one of those people who presses the snooze button for another 45 minutes of shut eye. My alarm goes off and I am up. I figure part of this is because I never know when one of my kids is going to wake up so I might as well get going before chaos breaks out. I get dressed, check my emails and finalize and send out a freelance agreement to a new client. Believe it or not, there is no coffee for me. Ever. It’s just not my thing.
6:45 am: My little people are now rolling out of bed. This means it’s time to get breakfast ready (omelettes), get the kids dressed, make lunches and help my son fill loot bags for his upcoming birthday party.
8:40 am: I walk the kids to school. This is one of my favourite times of the day (especially now that the weather is warm). On this particular walk we discuss fossils and how they are made.
9:15 am: Gym. This is my “me time”. No work, no kids, no distractions. I then head home to shower and get to work (I have a virtual office and tend to work primarily from home).
Noon: I pick up my youngest from preschool. Now this is my favourite part of my day. She lights up when she sees me and gives me the biggest hug. Ahhhhhhhh, lucky me. We walk back home where I give her a snack and then she is off to bed for her afternoon nap. I then prepare lunch (shrimp and leftover veggie salad) and sit down with my husband (who also works from home) for a quick lunch.
1:00 pm: I continue on with the GDPR research outlined above. I also take care of some administrative tasks: confirm details of a conference call taking place later today, RSVP to a breakfast networking event and confirm client instructions on a file.
3:00 pm: My daughter is up and ready to go. We hang out for a bit before heading out to pick up the big kids from school.
3:20 pm: School run.
4:10 pm: Hang out with the kids. Today we are reading books and talking about what they did at school that day. Apparently my son was involved in an “epic” game of dodgeball. He tells me about every play in detail.
4:30 pm: My husband takes over with the kids while I jump on a conference call. It is a group call with a law firm that is planning to offer legal services to its clients through independent contractors, such as myself. I really think it is a great time to be an entrepreneurial minded lawyer. There is so much possibility and freedom to work in a non-traditional way than ever before.
5:45 pm: After the call, dinner is literally being put on the table. Yay for me! Hubby has made tacos with guacamole. Our dinner conversation with the kids revolves around birthday party plans, different types of cows and whether brown cows actually produce chocolate milk (some of us are still undecided on that one) as well as a vote on what food you like best among ice cream, pizza or smoothies (that’s a tough one for me but I think depending on where it is from I would have to go with pizza. It would have to be pizza from Windsor because it is the best).
6:15 pm: Tidy up the path of destruction that has been left behind by the kids. One of my kids was stuck with laundry for a chore this week so I showed him how to fold the clothes and put them away. I am pretty sure he pretended that it was too difficult so I ended up doing most of it. In the meantime, my husband helps the other with his homework and the youngest with making sure she didn’t stick her fingers in any electrical outlets.
7:00 pm: Bedtime for the kids.
7:15 pm: Grocery store run.
9:30 pm: I can’t lie. I record the Bachelorette weekly and am a die hard fan. No shame. Time to sit back and enjoy!
11:00 pm: Off to get some shut eye (with visions of fossils, brown cows and loot bags dancing in my head).
Thanks Amy for this informative (and entertaining) post! This is a great example of how freelance lawyers can provide quality legal work and excellent client service to sole practitioner, law firm, and in-house legal department clients, while still being engaged in other aspects of life. A number of our freelance lawyers do not have children, but have other responsibilities that require a flexible legal practice. Freelancing gives them this flexibility.
We also provide flexibility to you - our lawyer and law firm clients. We eliminate the need for you to hire a full-time associate or counsel (only hire us when you need us), save on overhead (we work remotely), and can give you more flexibility in your legal practice (off-load the work you don't want to do and keep the work you do!) If you are looking for a freelance lawyer to assist with your overflow legal work, please do not hesitate to reach out and find out how we can help you.
Are you a busy lawyer looking for experienced help?