Since the pandemic, the freelance industry has exploded, and today, about 64 million Americans work on a freelance basis. This work arrangement is becoming increasingly popular in the legal world, especially with lawyers who are looking for a more flexible work situation.

So how do you become a freelance lawyer, and is it the right move for you? Below, we dive into the pros and cons of freelancing, as well as how you can grow a solid client base.

What Does a Freelance Lawyer Do?

If you’re considering becoming a freelance lawyer, the first thing you need to know is what you should expect in this role. 

Freelance attorneys typically work for other lawyers, rather than directly with clients. They help to pick up extra work when lawyers are experiencing busier periods.

Paralegals and legal aids can help to handle excess administrative work, but they can’t handle legal work. Freelance lawyers, on the other hand, are permitted to take on legal work when law firms get overwhelmed with their caseload.

Freelancers help lawyers bridge the gap in firm growth where they don’t have enough consistent work to justify hiring another full-time lawyer, but they occasionally have more work than their current team can handle.

There are a few types of legal work freelance lawyers may take on to help out the firms they work with.

Appearance Work

In some cases, law firms may handle a freelance attorney to appear in court representing a case they’re working on. They may attend hearings on behalf of the representing attorney, freeing that lawyer up to handle other work instead of spending a long, unproductive day in court.

If a freelance lawyer is going to do appearance work, they have to be licensed in the jurisdiction they’ll be appearing in.

Written Substantive Work

In other cases, freelance lawyers may be hired to do written substantive work for the firms they work with. This can include drafting or reviewing documents, doing research, or doing discovery. Occasionally, a firm will even ask a freelance lawyer to ghostwrite blog posts for them.

At LawRank, all of our content is written by lawyers so you get the benefit of legal expertise, as well as search engine optimization.

Why Become a Freelance Attorney?

Becoming a freelance attorney may be a good option for you, depending on your professional goals and work preferences. 

Pros of Freelance Work

Freelance work can give you better work-life balance, more control over your career, and better flexibility than a traditional 9 to 5.

  • Better work-life balance – When you work freelance, you may be able to set your own schedule. This means that when you need to get your car worked on or take your kid to the doctor, you have the freedom to do so. This can give you a much better work-life balance than many lawyers experience.
  • More variety – If you’re the kind of person who hates working on the same thing day after day, freelancing can be a fantastic option for you. You can work in several areas of law, depending on which firms you get hired with, and the work you do can vary from week to week. 
  • Increased control over your career – When you work for a firm, you have to wait for someone else to decide you’re worthy of a promotion or a raise. But when you work for yourself, you have more control over the path of your career and your income.

If you’re looking for a work arrangement that prioritizes flexibility and variety, freelancing can be a fantastic option.

Cons of Freelance Work

Of course, freelance work does come with some challenges and downsides. Your career won’t be as stable as it would be in a traditional job, you may be more isolated, and you’ll get less help on projects.

  • Less stability – The biggest trade-off with working freelance is the lack of stability. Often, freelancers don’t get a steady, guaranteed salary, and they don’t have employer-provided benefits such as paid time off, health insurance, and a retirement match.
  • More isolation – Although freelancing offers a lot more freedom, it can also be lonely. You don’t work with the same group of people every week, and if you’re working from home, you may get little or no workplace socializing.
  • Less help – When you work in a law firm, you have legal aids, secretaries, and paralegals around to help you manage your workload, as well as a team of fellow attorneys who can give you advice or help you bounce ideas. When you work on a freelance basis, you’re on the mound all by yourself.

Deciding if freelancing is the right fit for you means weighing the pros and cons and deciding on your career priorities.

Get Malpractice Insurance

If you do decide to go the freelancing route, the first thing you need to do is get malpractice insurance.

Oftentimes, firms that hire freelancers will offer malpractice insurance that covers their work. But it’s always a good idea to have some of your own to protect yourself from any liability.

Talk to your malpractice insurance provider and make sure your policy will cover any potential liability you might face working as a freelance lawyer.

Start Building a Client Base

One of the more challenging parts of working as a freelance attorney is building a large enough client base to provide you with a steady stream of work. There are a few ways you can go about growing your client base.

Market Yourself

If you already have a large network of lawyers, it’s a good idea to start there. 

Talk to your attorney contacts and let them know you’re available for freelance work. Ask if they need some extra support around their firms or if they know any lawyers who might.

Digital marketing can also be a great way to grow your client base. Setting up social media profiles (especially on LinkedIn) and posting regularly can help you gain a following of potential clients.

It’s also a good idea to set up a website advertising your services. However, you’ll need to make sure your site is compliant with your bar association’s advertising rules. The New York State Bar Association, for instance, has provided guidance aimed specifically at freelancers and their websites.

The other factor to consider when building your online presence is search engine optimization. LawRank can help you improve your marketing reach by getting your website higher in the rankings.

Register with Online Platforms

Another great way to get your name out there is to register with online legal freelancing platforms.

Services like LAWCLERK and Hire an Esquire are designed to connect freelance attorneys with law firms needing some extra support. These platforms will even help you handle payments from your clients and freelancer taxes.

Build a Strong Profile

Once you’ve gotten your name in front of potential clients, the next step is to show them why they should hire you. Building a strong profile on your website and any freelancing platforms you’re using can help you convince law firms that you’re worth hiring!

Think of your profile as your freelancing resumé.

Show Off Your Strengths

It’s a good idea to start off by highlighting your professional strengths. 

Talk about your expertise and highlight any special achievements or honors you’ve earned. You may also want to discuss the legal areas you practice in and any areas of specialization you have, including any board certifications.

Use a Good Profile Picture

You want potential clients to connect with you on a personal level, and including a good profile picture can help them get a good sense of who you are. If you look friendly, professional, and well-dressed, law firms will be more likely to trust you with their cases.

Use a professional headshot on your freelancing platform profiles and website. You should be dressed nicely in the picture, and your hair should be tidy. 

Don’t use a selfie you took at the Fourth of July cookout, and don’t use a low-resolution picture that’s going to look blurry. Remember, this is your first impression; make sure it represents you at your best.

Prepare Writing Samples

Before a law firm hires you, they’re likely to want to see samples of your work. Although this should include your track record with cases, it’s also a good idea to prepare some writing samples to include with your profile.

If you’re looking to do litigation work, find some documents that you’ve filed that are in the public record. If you plan to do transactional work, you’ll need to edit your relevant writing samples to anonymize them. Any names should be changed to “John/Jane Doe”, and any identifying details should be removed.

Remember, the goal of these samples is to show off your writing skills; the details of the case are secondary. 

List References and Reviews

Some firms may want to talk with previous clients of yours to find out if they had a good experience working with you. Talk to some of your best former clients and see if they’d be willing to serve as a reference on your freelance profile.

If you’re just starting out as a freelance attorney, talk to firms you’ve worked for in the past. Ask if they’ll act as a professional reference for your freelance profile. 

And when you’re building your website, be sure to include reviews from your previous clients! Their recommendations can help seal the deal for potential clients who may be on the edge.

Decide on an Hourly Rate

You’ve gotten word out about your services, and you’ve got a strong profile put together. Now you’ll need to decide how much you’re going to charge for your freelance services.

Hourly rate for freelance lawyers depends on a number of factors.

  • Experience – The more experience you have in the legal field, the more you can charge for your services.
  • Location – Hourly rates for lawyers vary widely from region to region, and the same applies to freelancers. If you’re in a higher-cost-of-living area, you’ll need to charge more for your services, and vice versa.
  • Practice area – In a similar vein, hourly rates vary depending on what legal practice area you work in. Corporate work, for instance, tends to pay much higher than juvenile law.
  • Timelines – If a law firm needs a job done quickly, you’ll be justified in charging them a fee for expediting the work.
  • Taxes – One of the things you’ll need to factor in when calculating your hourly rate is the taxes you’ll have to pay on that income. Taxes work differently for freelance attorneys, so be sure to do your research before setting your hourly rate.

In general, freelance lawyers usually charge between $70 and $300 per hour, depending on all the factors discussed above. It’s a good idea to do your own research to figure out going market rates in your region and your practice area.

Write a Freelance Contract

As a lawyer, you know how imperative it is to have a solid contract when you enter a working relationship. Even if you’re working with a firm you know and trust, it’s too easy for a professional relationship to go off the rails, and without a good contract, you could wind up losing a lot of money.

Your freelance contract should outline your agreed-upon compensation, the scope of your work, and any ethical and legal considerations. You may also include terms for how either you or your client can terminate the contract early.

Provide an Excellent Client Experience

The last thing you need to do to keep your freelance career growing is to provide an exceptional client experience.

Deliver (or Over-Deliver)

It should go without saying that delivering everything within your scope of work is imperative in your freelance work. And when you can, look for opportunities to over-deliver. 

Going above and beyond for your clients can give you a great reputation and may encourage your clients to recommend you to other firms in the future.

Meet Deadlines

It’s also crucial to meet all your deadlines or deliver work early when possible. The more punctual you are with your work, the more your clients will come to trust you with their casework.

Put Clients First

In each job you do, look for opportunities to go beyond your scope of work and create a fantastic experience for your clients. Think about what would make your life easier if you were in your client’s shoes and what you would appreciate seeing from a freelancer you hire.

Creating a stellar experience for each client will help you build a reputation for excellence and a strong network of future clients.

Get Marketing that Works

Working as a freelance lawyer can be a great way to get more flexibility in your career. If you plan to become a freelance lawyer, start by building a strong personal network and investing in marketing channels. From there, it’s a matter of taking a client-first approach to your work and delivering an exceptional experience in every job.

If you’re looking for legal marketing that works, LawRank is here to help. We provide SEO, PPC, and web design tailored specifically for lawyers. Contact us today and start getting honesty, transparency, and results from your marketing firm.