Thinking about transitioning from traditional attorney work to a career as a freelance attorney? You’re not alone. Many lawyers are choosing to leave the traditional practice of law, and for good reason: the interests of lawyers and law firms are often contrary to each other. Law firms are incentivized to make lawyers work more so that they can increase their billable hours. According to this study, lawyers often fall under the category of least happy workers in the US.
As a freelancer, you can choose to get out of the vicious cycle of increasingly demanding hours, and take your first step towards a happy and rewarding job experience. Freelancing allows you to determine your own rates and select the projects you want to pursue. And those “perks” are more than just perks. Freelancers experience much more autonomy than a traditional attorney role can provide, and that makes an ideal work-life balance more attainable. Let’s say you have a family, or you’re hoping to start one. Don’t you want to be able to spend time with them and watch your kids grow up?
The proof is in the numbers: a recent study shows that nearly 4 out of 10 self-employed workers (39%) say they are ‘completely satisfied’ with their jobs, compared with just 28% of all wage or salaried employees.
So, how do you get started freelancing? Here are a few tips for building your roadmap out of traditional law and into a career as a contract attorney:
1. Identify Your Skills
The first step to becoming a contract attorney is to identify all of your skills. List everything you know how to do. It’s best to start broadly and then define what each skill actually entails. Whether you were an engineer or a server before law school, don’t neglect to list skills in any area, even those that aren’t related to the legal field or those that seem menial. You never know what experience might prove useful. Plus, many specialized skills you learn in traditional law can be put to good use as a contract attorney: think experience in privilege review or project management, subject matter expertise in different areas of litigation, or foreign language expertise.
Bottom line: the better you articulate your skills and precisely define your capabilities, the better you’re able to market yourself and find contract work.
2. Keep an Open Mind
When searching for contract opportunities, it’s important to keep an open mind. One of the benefits of working as a contract attorney is that you’re not tied to one law firm practicing one area of law. This puts you in a unique position to explore a wide variety of practice areas and learn as much as possible. Search for positions that can best use the skills you have and be open to contract opportunities that you might not have initially considered.
3. Market Yourself
Once you have an idea of what type of contract work you’d like to dive into, it’s time to market yourself. Reach out to colleagues that you trust, let them know you’re planning to leave traditional law, and explain what kind of contract work you’re looking for. Those people may be able to help you get “in” with a firm that needs to hire out for contract work. Attend networking events to make new connections and collect business cards. Create your very own website using a service like Squarespace.
4. Join a Freelance Community
You can consider joining a network such as LexInsight, an on-demand marketplace that brings together contract attorneys with law firms and corporations who want to hire them for eDiscovery document review projects. By joining LexInsight’s growing online community, you can have the unique opportunity to work on your own terms, get rewarded for your specialized skills and experience, and benefit from an objective rating system (think LinkedIn for attorneys).
You have already tried your hand at traditional law. Now is the time to explore something new, and take your first step towards a rewarding career as a freelancing attorney.