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6 STEPS TO BECOME A FREELANCE LAWYER
With the rapid growth of the internet, there has been a demand for products and services from all over the world. Many companies have seized this opportunity and taken their businesses online. This has led to the creation of online jobs for freelancers. Due to the many amazing benefits derived from freelancing, lawyers have started freelancing.
A freelance lawyer is an experienced lawyer, who is hired directly by other lawyers to work on a particular component of a case or transaction. Freelance lawyers set up their own hours, look for their own clients and bring in their own income.
If you want to become a freelance lawyer, here are six steps that you can follow.
Determine what legal services to offer
You need to have a specific area of focus, which you are very good at. Going for a specific area of the law that has stable demand will keep your business running longer. If you feel that the area that you are good at does not have a demand or is uncommon in your region, go for your second best.
Have two or three areas that you are very good at. Do a market research on them and pick the one you are most comfortable with. Alternatively, carefully craft all three and make them interrelated. This way, you can provide services for all. If for some reason one is not doing well, the other two will sustain the business. Choose what works best for you.
Register your services
Before you register your services, you have to decide on what entity to use for your legal services. You can choose a Sole Proprietorship, a Corporation or a Limited Liability Company.
Sole Proprietorship (SP)
It is the easiest to start. You will conduct a name search, which can be done with your mobile device after payment of a fee. Be sure to use the name within the reservation period provided. Then fill out the required forms with your government office and register your business. Once this is done, you can go ahead and start your business.
A downside to this type of business is that the owner is not protected in case the business is sued.
To form a corporation, you need to follow some steps.
- Choose a business name that complies with the corporation rules of your state.
- Appoint the directors of the corporation.
- File all the required documents (the articles of incorporation).
- Pay the filing fees.
- Create the bylaws, which are basically the operating rules of the corporation.
- Have the first meeting of the board of directors held.
- Issue the stock certificates to the initial owners of the corporation (shareholders).
- Obtain required licenses and permits for the business.
For lawyers, you have to set up a Professional Corporation or Professional LLC. You must show the government your professional license. This means that in case of a malpractice, the lawyer will not be protected. You must hence get professional malpractice insurance.
The corporation offers limited liability to the owner. If the business is sued, the personal assets will not be touched. The assets will only be touched if the owner acts as a guarantor of a debt of the company, and the company is unable to pay its debt.
There are two main disadvantages of forming a corporation:
- The formation requires time and expense. You have to appoint a board (which can be yourself), hold board meetings, create bylaws and develop minutes, finance the business and issue stock to yourself.
- The issue of double taxation. The government will tax the business owner and tax the corporation as well. To avoid this, use the S tax status if it is applicable in your state. If you do not have the S tax status in your state, opt for starting a limited liability company.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)
The creation of a limited liability company is uncomplicated. You submit forms to your government, choose a name, pay the fee and register. It is a good practice to draft your operating agreement and have it signed by all the owners. The signing of the operating agreement binds all the signatories.
Limited Liability Companies were introduced to deal with the strict formation of the corporation as well as the issue of double taxation. The LLC only requires the owner to draft a flexible agreement to describe the operations of the business. All the earnings generated from the limited liability are taxed as though you earned them personally. The entity is not taxed, but the earnings you receive from it. The tax preparation is similar to filing a sole proprietorship.
In my opinion, it is easier and better to create an LLC especially if you plan on bringing other on board in the future.
Perform some administrative tasks
You need to open a business account for billing and taxation purposes. You can employ the services of an assistant to help you with some of the administrative tasks.
If you want to work alone, you will need to invest in a good accounting software for lawyers. Such software will make your work easy. Some of the best law accounting software include:
AbacusLaw was created by Abacusnext. It is a leading solution for legal and accounting professionals. It provides features on billing, invoicing, calendar, processing of payroll, and time tracking among others. It also offers solutions by the type of law and area of practice. You can hence customize it to fit your area of practice.
It uses a 256-bit data encryption to safeguard your sensitive information. Some of the features it provides include task management, time tracking, case management, online invoicing, payment tracking, document management and trust accounting with IOLTA reconciliation.
This software performs almost all the administrative functions. They have features like billing, invoicing, tracking time, billing reports, trust accounting, payment management, lead tracking, and matter management.
There are many accounting software that can be used by lawyers. These are however some of the best out there.
Even with an accounting software, it is recommended to have a legal assistant once the business grows. This is because you will need to focus more on the services than the administrative aspect of it.
For your freelancing career to grow, you need to establish a network or expand on the already existing one. The best and easiest way to network is to use your contact list. Let your contacts know of your new business and have them recommend the same to others. Design good business cards and issue them to your contacts so that they may recommend you to others.
Visit social networking sites. One of the best is LinkedIn which connects professionals from all over the world. Create an account with the site if you do not have one yet. It will get your business to a new level.
Go for the Continuous Legal Education (CLE) and meet other lawyers. Carry your cards and approach those who are in the area that you are freelancing in. Give them your card and let them know that you exist.
Keep approaching more people because not everyone you approach will automatically become a client.
Create a website
A website will highlight your expertise. If you feature your past projects on your website, you will be able to showcase your work. Pick your best projects to showcase, because they hold the power to make or break your business.
You need to perform some basic SEO functions so as to draw traffic to your website. You can sign up for free online SEO courses or sign up to paid ones if you have the funds. Emarketing institute is a good place to start a free SEO course and acquire a certificate. If you have the funds, you can also hire an expert to maintain your website for you.
The more traffic you generate, the more users are going to interact with it, which will increase the chances of conversion. Alternatively, you can use Google PPC or Facebook Ads to advertise your business, but it will be at a cost.
Most websites have a blog on their website. If you do not want to deal with a website, you can start a blog. The blog helps you connect with your targeted group. Some of the internet users visiting your blog may convert to clients.
Blogging can lead to optimization of your websites especially when you use backlinks. A blog is a perfect platform to promote your free services as well as build a credible reputation online. A blog takes time to grow and you need to be patient and consistently produce great content.
Keep calm and exercise patience because freelance lawyering requires strategic planning, dedication, time, and patience. It will take time to build your reputation. Freelance lawyers as earlier mentioned enjoy benefits of controlling how they work and with whom they work.
The more lawyers go freelance, the more the competition, so you need to do your best when it comes to dealing with your clients. Make sure they are more than satisfied with the services because they will tell others about their experience with you.
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