Finding Work As A Freelance aka Contract Attorney

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Today’s guest article on finding work as a freelance lawyer is by California small claims appeals attorney Adam Jaffe.

Where to look for contract attorney jobs:

To get a job as a contract attorney:

  • Read Craigslist DAILY!
  • Network, network, network!

Craigslist is the best location to see who is hiring . Yes, one can look at Monster, Lawjobs.com, and the like. However, most people who are looking for some kind of assistance (including retention by in pro pers) can be found on Craigslist. I live in Southern California, and I regularly check – via an RSS Reader – the Craigslist posting for my county and the 2 counties on either side of me.

As it pertains to networking, I know that we have all heard how imperative it is. However, one does not NEED to join the ABA, local bar, etc to network. My 2 biggest contracts (1099 employment) has come from a former adjunct professor and from a former co-worker.

The lead from the adjunct professor led me to a part-time position (varies from 10-30 hr/month) as the “Associate” to this particular firm. For the most part, I do legal research and writing (memo’s), motion drafting, and the occasional appearance. Additionally, I have told my supervisor that me having my bar card does not mean I HAVE to sit at counsel’s table during trial (sometimes it is not good to have too many lawyers sitting at counsel’s table – bad perception for the jury). As such, I told him I could sit in the gallery or back bench and be a runner if need be.

The lead from my former co-worker was to her (now former) California Worker’s Compensation Applicant (plaintiff) firm. For the firm, I do nothing more than defend depositions. The first few were a bit unnerving as I did not know how to thoroughly prep a deponent, but after a while, it came as second nature. On occasion, I was also given authority to settle cases. Now, from this specific experience, I can say I have participated in over 200 depositions, and negotiated the settlement in over 10 cases worth at least $10,000 to the plaintiff.

I went to law school in San Diego where the legal market is VERY small and all the attorney’s and judges seem to know EVERYONE. That being said, my professors told me that my most valuable commodity is my reputation. My reputation in defending my clients in Work Comp Depo’s led me to be considered for a position as contract attorney by the defense.

Sidebar: The trick I found really was – at least for depositions – to object when it was important to object: the more stupid the objection and the more objections raised, the more likely the opposing side will be combative.

Now, that being said, if there are valid objections make them. Worst case scenario, have a conversation off the record with opposing counsel to settle disputes first. If that does not work, make a statement on the record as to what is going on. If it continues, give one final warning. After that, just leave. I have only walked out of one depo on one occasion, and it was before it even started – the opposing counsel was making personal attacks at me and I felt that my client would not be treated fairly. I believe that when it went before the judge, the judge sided with me.

Choosing which contract lawyer jobs to take:

Before you take a contract job, know roughly what you want to do. If you need a paycheck, this is not an issue. If you are not interested in litigation, do not take jobs to specially appear or deposition work. A good place to figure out what you may like, is to start with Doc Review. There are numerous companies out there where you can get listed. If you are interested in litigation, try (in So Cal) Attorneys on Demand.

How much to ask for as a freelance attorney:

As for fee, sometimes you can set it, but most of the time it will be set by the hiring company. Fees can range from $15/hr to $100 or more. You can also negotiate a flat rate. Be reasonable in your demands.

Look at Craigslist to see what the market will bear. In greater Los Angeles, it seems to be $35-$75, depending on the hiring company, the project, the expected time commitment, etc. However, if you are willing to lower your hourly rate to secure a long-term contract position, this is a serious consideration. The catch is, you cannot EVER count on a raise.

Whatever you agree upon, get it in writing. Also, be sure to get in writing any special instructions that the company has for billing them (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) how memos, briefs, etc. should be formatted (word, word perfect, pdf, headings, font, etc.)

The work is there. You do not have to look too hard to find it, but where to find it.  Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at: jaffeaj@gmail.com and find me on SmallClaimsAppeals.com. Good hunting!


  • http://www.contractjobs.com/jobs/information-technology Sean Enhance

    I would agree with your second point which is network, network network, but I wont trust Craigslist, especially now days is full os scamers, if you go there for a job make sure you know what you’re doing, ask for half the moeny in advance, and do not ever give out your personal info to anyone.

  • Attorney Jobs California

    Hi..Thanx for sharing such a useful blog..i’m impress reading all the tips which u have posted in this post..