Table of Contents
7 ESSENTIALS OF BECOMING A FREELANCE LAWYER/ ATTORNEY
It can be overwhelming when attempting to conquer a new market or area you are unfamiliar with. Taking on freelance lawyering can be a struggle at the beginning, but once you are all set, you are good to go. You need to be aware of where to start and what is required of you.
If you have no idea on how to get started as a freelance lawyer, you can carry out research on the internet. You will find many articles on getting your freelance career started. In my previous post, I discussed the 6 steps to becoming a freelance lawyer. You can apply the steps I discussed in that article.
Once you have an idea on how to go about your legal freelance career, ensure that you have all the essentials required. I have put together seven elements that I believe are crucial to a freelance lawyer.
Your experience as a Lawyer
You need to have some form of experience in the area that you want to offer freelance services on. Before you start thinking about freelancing, you need to ask yourself if you have enough experience to be an authority in the area of law that you want to practice in.
You are regarded as an expert upon having five years of experience. However, since people are different and have different learning and understanding capabilities, with three years of practice you should be able to deliver.
If you think you have the relevant qualification and experience to be a freelance lawyer, you should go for it. Show your clients why they should hire you instead of hiring someone who has five or more years of experience.
Most of your clients will be law firms and other attorneys. They do not have the luxury of taking their chances with you if they have a doubt on your capabilities. Just make sure that you can deliver once you get them to hire you. Remember that your reputation is on the line. If they are pleased with your services, they can retain you and recommend you to others. If they are not satisfied, they will tarnish your reputation.
If you feel that your experience in a certain matter is limited, consult your seniors or teach yourself. If you have a mentor, you can get their views and insights on certain matters. Just make sure that you are capable of delivering on a project before undertaking it.
Freelance Work Agreement
This is an agreement between the freelance lawyer and the client. It should be in writing. The agreement is crucial for the success of the project. It should seek to safeguard the interests of all the parties involved. A freelance work agreement should contain:
- The scope of the freelance project: The extent of the subject matter of the project should be provided. You can include the number of pages required. Completion time should be included in the agreement.
- Compensation: You have to state your fees and the mode of payment. In case there should be deposits before the work starts, the exact amount of the deposit should be stated. You can include the time within which it should be paid.
- Confidentiality: There should be a clause in the freelance lawyer work agreement to maintain the confidentiality of the hiring lawyer or attorney. The subject of the project (hiring lawyer’s client) should be accorded confidentiality as well.
- Checking for Conflict: The agreement should have a conflict checking mechanism for the project. Where you feel that there is or there could be a conflict of interest, the agreement should state how you should go about it.
- Malpractice insurance coverage: Provide a clause on malpractice insurance in your agreement. It should be sufficient to cover the project. You should have this clause even if you have your own malpractice insurance.
- Product ownership: This is important. The ownership of the project should be provided for in the agreement. The copyrights of the project should be explicitly set out in the project, so as to avoid infringement.
- Professional responsibility: There should be some guideline on the issue of professional responsibility. It needs to state to which extent each party is to be held accountable for the project.
- Dispute resolution mechanism: It is always paramount to have a dispute resolution mechanism in place, in case a dispute arises concerning the project.
- Termination: Instances of termination and what happens in case there is termination of the project should be included. Termination on account of either party should have some form of consequence on the other party.
Have basic sample work agreements. They should be of the different types of projects you plan on taking. Store them on your computer, smartphone or email. Storing them in your email or phone ensures you can easily access them from anywhere. In case of last minute projects, you will be able to avail a copy to your client in less than 15 minutes.
You can utilize emails to send the basic agreements. If there are amendments, they can be edited quickly and send to the client via email as well. Communication of agreement of terms sent via an email is sufficient.
A freelance lawyer must always have a malpractice insurance policy that effectively covers his or her work. You should never operate without malpractice insurance. The insurance not only protects you from legal liability but also shows that you are a serious professional.
Provide the insurer with information on the kind of freelance work you are doing. You need to include your areas of practice as well as the billable time you expect to work in a month. Even if you have malpractice insurance in place, ensure that the hiring attorney has malpractice insurance for the project.
As a freelance lawyer, you need to come up with a marketing strategy that best works for you. You can create an online presence as well as a business card. These two will help you reach out to your target group.
Creating an online presence
You need to establish yourself online. Many of your potential clients interact with the internet. You need to find them in social sites or have them come to you. To create an online presence, you can do either of the following:
- Sign up to professional sites
You can create a professional profile with sites like LinkedIn if you do not already have one. Ensure that your profiles are as professional as possible because they will serve as your resume for getting hired. Do not come off as a brag. Rather let your profile viewers see you as a serious individual who knows what he or she wants and is ready for business.
- Utilize social media
You can utilize sites like Facebook, Instagram and other social networks that you have. Let your friends on social media know you are offering freelance lawyering services. Even if they are not interested in the services, they may find other people who are interested and refer them to you. You will be able to grow your business if you get many referrals.
Make sure you do what you promise your clients. You do not want them to kill your business by giving you bad reviews.
- Create a blog
Creating a blog on your favourite legal topics especially in your area of specialization is a good marketing strategy. All you have to do is make sure that you have basic knowledge of SEO and keyword use. Make sure your content is unique, beneficial and interesting. You can create links in your social accounts for your followers and friends to visit your sites.
Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo look at the frequency of users visiting your sites. If you follow their guidelines, you rise in their ranks. Your site may rise the ranks and even be among the top ten sites.
- Create a website
If you create a website, you can post your past projects to showcase your work. Websites are not often updated. To get visitors to your site, you will need to create a blog on the website. Blogging about content that is related to your website is important. It makes it easier to create links to your website. You do not have to force any links.
Using Business Cards
You can create your business cards by using free software found online. You can also hire a professional to create them for you. Business cards come in handy.
You can distribute your business cards during the Continuous Legal Education (CLE) seminars the law societies organize. Letting your fellow advocates/lawyers/attorneys know of the services you are offering is a good marketing strategy. They are your potential clients.
You can also distribute your business cards to your friends and family to recommend you to their friends. Do your best to have as many as possible. You never know where your clients will come from. The most important thing is not the so many clients you get but how satisfied they are with what they get.
Freelance lawyers need to have a financial plan to keep the business going. You need to establish a system of dealing with revenue and expenditure.
The first thing you need to do is set up a billing system. This can be influenced by your years of experience, the type of work you do and your location. Those with more years of experience will charge more compared to those with less. It is up to the freelance advocate to bill appropriately. The billing structure should be flexible and concrete.
If you are not good at keeping accounts, you can download a good software that will make your work easier. There are paid and free billing software that seek to make billing easier for lawyers. Find a reputable one and have it serve you.
Remember that as a freelance attorney who has already formed a business entity is taxed in accordance with that entity. If you do not have a business entity, you are treated as either a sole proprietor or an independent contractor for purposes of taxation.
You have to provide your hiring lawyers or attorneys with a social security number for payment. The hiring attorney should provide you with a 1099-MISC form. Freelance Lawyers and attorneys without a registered business entity are treated as self-employed persons. Remember to pay your tax as such.
Technology is essential for any freelance lawyer. You cannot be a freelance attorney without some form of technology. For you to work from anywhere at any time, you need technology. Basically, you need a good laptop, access to high-speed internet connection, and an all in one printer and scanner. You do not need any fancy materials to run your freelance business. You can upgrade later when you have made a sustainable income.
You need to have a smartphone for ease of communication with your hiring attorneys. You will be able to communicate with your clients using emails, video calls and more. You will also be able to work on your phone in case you do not have your laptop with you.
There are many applications for creating word documents which are preinstalled into the smartphones. Even if you do not have, you can access them at your phone store for free. You also have applications for viewing documents that you can use to read documents on your phone from anywhere.
You need access to online legal research. You can utilize the many free legal research databases if you cannot afford the paid ones like LexisNexis.
You also need to have lawyer software that will seek to make your freelance experience effortless. There are many accounting, billing, and management software among others. Chose those you need for your business. They will serve you especially if you are working alone.
A quiet place to work from
As a freelance lawyer, you do not need to rent an office. You can set up your office at home. Look for the quietest room or place in the house to set up your office. Keep off areas where there will be distractions like the sitting room. The key is to have minimum interruptions.
Set up your office in an area which is not frequently used by others. You can convert an unused room to your office. You will just need a little effort to clear out the clutter. You can paint it to your liking as well as design it if you so wish. Do what works for you.
In conclusion, you will not do well without the elements we have stated. Most of them are for making your freelance career manageable while others are paramount for legal practice. Ensure you incorporate them in your practice. If you do so, you will have less to no issues with your freelancing career.
Let us know if you enjoyed the post by commenting in the comment section below.