This is the third post in our series "How I Became a Freelance Lawyer" by our Flex Lawyers. Today's post is by Lisa Eisen.
Running my own small business as a freelance family law lawyer was never part of my master plan. Of course, that may be because I had no master plan. I went to law school armed with a specific skill set and a vague notion that I would be able to utilize those skills to “help”. Law school confirmed that my skill set allowed me to perform well on exams (especially family law and legal research/writing) but left me feeling unprepared for life as a lawyer. Well, I figured, that’s what articling was for – the bridge from student to practicing lawyer. For me, that bridge felt structurally unsound and rather precarious. I wasn’t sure I even wanted to get to other side. While my skill set was still valuable, accessing the right skill at the right time, while simultaneously trying to figure out my place in this new world proved to be enormously stressful. Once I reached the other side, my youthful, stressed-induced state led me to conclude that practicing law, at least in the traditional sense, was not for me.
I spent the first few years of my career working in alternate dispute resolution. That experience allowed me to use my skill set to help build a business, forge relationships with people from many different industries, and learn how to confront and overcome challenges (most notably, my fear of public speaking).
After my son was born, I decided it was time for something new. I wanted/needed to work (that’s a whole other blog post), but suffice it to say that my new priority was flexibility. A good friend from law school, who ran her own family law firm, persuaded me to “take one file and work on it from home”. One file led to many files. Working from home led to spending more time at the office (confession: it was fun to put on a dress and heels) and taking on more responsibility. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I again took stock of my situation and knew it was time for some adjustments. By that point, I had enough experience, life and law, to know what gave me energy and what depleted me.
My true freelance family law business was born when my son was 5 and my daughter was 2. Working from my home office kept my overhead low and my commute down to just a few steps. I reached out to lawyers who had been on the other side of files to let them know that I was available to work with them in a new capacity (obviously, only after the matters on which we had previously worked were settled). I called solo and family law lawyers in small firms who I had never met to offer my services. The work started coming in.
So now I am 20 years post-call and here’s what I know: I get pleasure and fulfillment from working alongside different lawyers, supporting them in representing family law clients and building their reputations. Over the years, I have been privileged to utilize my skill set to draft (originating, conference, motion, and appeal material), organize and keep track of disclosure (Requests for Information, Affidavits of Documents), prepare and update sworn financial statements, co-write articles for CPD programs, co-author a chapter in a book comparing family law in various jurisdictions, and attend in court as agent. Whether I’m speaking with a lawyer to formulate strategy or buried in a pile of disclosure, I am keenly aware that I am using my skill set to help.