Perhaps you run a busy law practice and a talented freelance lawyer has agreed to help with your overflow legal work and you are eager to get started.
Or, you are a freelance lawyer and you found your first lawyer client who has some interesting work for you.
In either situation, before any work begins, it is important to outline the details of your working relationship in a freelance lawyer agreement.
Not sure where to start? We provide some guidance on drafting this type of agreement:
Working Relationship Status: Not Employee but Independent Contractor
One of the key aspects of working with, or as, a freelance lawyer is that freelance lawyers are not employees. They are independent contractors. As these two types of employment statuses come with different legal obligations and responsibilities it is important to have a clause in the agreement clarifying the employment relationship.
Scope of Work: Details
Ideally, the agreement would also include the scope of the legal work to be completed by the freelancer. You can include the SOW in the body of the agreement or as a schedule. It is important for both the freelancer and the hiring lawyer to be clear about the contents of this section. Consider including:
This section of the freelance lawyer agreement is particularly important for ongoing freelance work (and not just a one-off assignment). For ongoing work, the parties should specify the hours or days that the freelance lawyer will be working (ex. 10 hours a week, only on Tuesdays and Thursdays), when they will be available for phone calls and emails (ex. Monday to Friday, 9-5, or, just on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 12-4pm), and the length of time the freelancer will be working with the hiring lawyer (ex. three months).
Compensation: How Much & When
The agreement should include how much and when the hiring lawyer will pay the freelance lawyer. Specify if it is an hourly rate or flat fee or combination of both. Also, include when the freelancer will be submitting their invoice (ex. once the project is complete or on a monthly basis if ongoing work) and any other payment terms (ex. due on receipt, within 15 days, etc.). It is also a good idea to discuss, and consider adding to the agreement, any cap on hours to be spent, or, if and when the freelancer should check in with the hiring lawyer (ex. don’t spend more than ten hours on this project or check in with the hiring lawyer after five hours).
Licensed to Practice Law / Insurance Coverage
In most cases when a freelance lawyer assists a hiring lawyer they will be “practicing law” and will need to be a licensee in good standing with their relevant law society and be insured by their professional insurer. The same with the hiring lawyer. Consider adding a clause that confirms the status of both lawyers to the agreement.
Similarly, while freelance lawyers are just like “regular” lawyers and must abide by their relevant Rules Of Professional Conduct, consider adding a clause confirming that the freelance lawyer will conduct a conflicts check before starting work and will maintain confidentiality.
Ultimately it is the hiring lawyer that retains the responsibility for their file and must ensure that their client is competently and ethically represented, even when part of the work is done by the freelance lawyer. The freelance lawyer agreement should specify that the hiring lawyer retains sole responsibility for their client’s matter, including completing the required “know your client” verification, and that they have the exclusive authority to make decisions in representing their client. Likewise, the hiring lawyer has complete discretion over whether and how to use the freelance lawyer’s work on their client’s behalf.
Ownership of Work Product
One final suggested clause is a clause confirming work product ownership, which is usually the hiring lawyer.
Also, consider adding other standard contract terms, including: limitation of liability, a termination provision, governing law, notice provision, changes to agreement, entire agreement clause, etc.
Once all the terms have been agreed to by the parties and the agreement has been reviewed and signed, the freelance lawyer is ready to start taking on some of the hiring lawyer’s extra work and help them with their law practice.
Are you a stressed and overworked lawyer looking for assistance with your law practice on a flexible basis? Fill out our Hire Us form and start the process to reduce stress and free up more of your time.
This post provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.