The gig economy—a free-market system in which organizations contract with independent workers for temporary and often short-term positions—is transforming the larger economy. Companies cut costs by hiring staff to execute a specific project. This approach is not new. In the past, the practice was called secondments. A law firm would send an attorney to assist another firm for a predetermined period and cost; the attorney would work at the second firm under their direction.
Thanks to the internet, cloud-based software, video conferencing and other technology, freelance lawyers can work where and when they choose. As technology continues to improve, barriers separating legal talent and demand for their services will disappear.
Freelance lawyers are valuable additions to law firms. They can offer unique perspectives and suggest alternate legal points or theories, and they can make court appearances and attend depositions.
Freelancing has its benefits. Becoming a freelance lawyer allows you to choose your projects and associates, and determine when and where you want to work. If this is the direction you want to go, here are a few simple steps to begin.
As you decide which services to offer, research your legal community to determine if there is a need for your niche. Offering an area of practice for which there is no demand is a recipe for failure. If you need to add a specialty, find a continuing legal education course to get you up to speed.
Determine the legal structure for your freelance business. Do you want to be a sole proprietorship, a limited-liability company, or a corporation? Knowing the differences between the three will help you decide how to operate.
Decide how you will get—and stay—organized. Software geared toward the legal industry can help with administrative tasks such as calendaring, billing, tracking time, or managing documents.
Market your service. As a freelancers, most of your business will come from other lawyers. Send announcements for your new business to your network of colleagues, be active in the local bar association, advertise in the Michigan Bar Journal, post in the SBM online member directory, create a website, and start and maintain a blog.
Finally, be patient. Growing a new business takes time. Allow the momentum around your endeavor to build and word of your availability to spread throughout the legal community.
Freelance lawyers have more responsibility and more liability than attorneys working in a firm. However, freelancers have flexible schedules and the ability to work from the comfort of your home thanks to technology. Maybe this is the time for you to join the gig economy and become a freelancer!
After years practicing law, Roberta Gubbins served as editor of the Ingham County Legal News. Since leaving the paper, she provides legal content writing for lawyers. She is editor of The Mentor, the SBM Master Lawyers newsletter. Writing as Alexandra Hawthorne, she published a cozy mystery, Murder One in Midvale Corners.
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