So You Want To Be A Freelance Lawyer?

Filed under: Freelance | Outsourcing | Tags: , |

Freelance attorney Celeste Boyd writes today’s post on what you need to know if you want to be a contract lawyer / freelance attorney:

In the past couple of years since my business cards started proclaiming me a “Freelance Attorney,” I’ve encountered a lot of curiosity from other lawyers who have the impression that freelancing (taking overflow legal work from other attorneys) offers an easy way out of the generally hectic life of most traditional attorney jobs. Of course, I think some of this is my fault: the way I tend to describe my day-to-day life (“I work in my pajamas, don’t have a daily commute, and get to hit the gym at down times instead of during the pre- or post-work rush”) does make life as a freelancer sound pretty luxurious.

The truth is, freelancing can be a great option for some attorneys (provided your career plans don’t include someday being a Supreme Court Justice or the managing partner at a mega-firm), but as with most career decisions, people tend to gloss over some of the less appealing aspects of the path while dreaming of life without a boss, a commute, or client drama. In the interest of helping other people avoid some of the misconceptions I had when I started full-time freelancing, let me point out some of the, well, less-than-green grass on the other side. Read the rest of this entry »


How To Find A Great Contract Attorney

Filed under: Freelance | Outsourcing | Tags: , , |

brat

CC photo credit: swambo

Legal researcher, legal writer and attorney-at-law, Rebecca Phalen revealed how hiring a contract attorney can make your life easier. Today, she takes us to the next step:

So how do I find a contract attorney?

The best way is word of mouth. Put the request on an e-mail list that you trust. Tweet about it. Use Google. Because you will supervise the contract attorney, you are not limited to attorneys in your state. As you receive responses, have high expectations. Know what you are looking for and what level of experience will satisfy you.

Here are the first questions I would ask:

  • Do you maintain a conflict database?
  • Can you provide proof of professional liability insurance?
  • Are you licensed in good standing?
  • Can you submit a resume?
  • Do you have access to your own research resources? (if necessary for the project)
  • Can you provide references?
  • Provide a writing sample?
  • Do you keep detailed time entries? (for projects billed hourly)

If the prospective contract attorney cannot answer “yes” to all of those questions, then don’t move forward.

But if the contract attorney satisfies you on those questions, and you like what you hear from the references and see on their website, then ask about their experience, their availability, and their rate. You do not have to meet the contract attorney in person; you can have a great working relationship by telephone and e-mail.

These suggestions should help you find a contract attorney who can help you grow your practice, while offering a little stress relief.

Check out Rebecca’s site and definitely read her blog.


Why Hire A Contract Attorney?

Filed under: Freelance | Outsourcing | Tags: , , |

My Work Desk

CC photo credit: DeaPeaJay

Today’s post comes from legal researcher, legal writer and attorney-at-law, Rebecca Phalen.

Why hiring a contract attorney brings value:

Attorneys hire contract attorneys for various reasons. Maybe the attorney doesn’t have ready access to the legal research materials needed, maybe the case calls for more hands on deck in one particular month. Whatever the reason, the contract attorney you hire should bring value to you and your client.

What is that value?

  • Stress relief. You delegate a project and get more time.
  • Fresh ideas. The contract attorney will listen to what you need. A good one will also raise relevant issues and advise you if you are going down the wrong path. You now have access to an attorney who can discuss any aspect of the case with you.
  • Workload expansion without payroll expansion. You can delegate small or large projects. You do not have to commit to providing a set number of hours.
  • Research resources. You can find contract attorneys that pay for their own research subscription. So if you don’t subscribe to Westlaw or Lexis, you can hire an attorney that does.
  • Experience, without the training time. You are not limited to new lawyers when looking for a contract attorney. There are attorneys with years of experience who have chosen to work only as contract attorneys.
  • Better client service. You can focus on what you like to do or what is most critical for your client, while the contract attorney completes the tasks that are still necessary for your client.

Rebecca is a terrific blogger and you should definitely check out her blog.


Finding Work As A Freelance aka Contract Attorney

Filed under: Freelance | Outsourcing | Tags: , |

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!


4 Benefits Of Hiring A Contract Lawyer

Filed under: Freelance | Outsourcing | Tags: , |

red velvet & Pikes Peak

CC photo credit: Andrea.Pacheco

Guest writer, Corrine A. Tampas, of What’s Your Authority takes us through the benefits of  working with contract lawyers:

Ten years ago I entered the 21st Century kicking and screaming. My twelve year old AST 286 computer had just died and I was going to have to learn how to use a computer with Windows 98. And, a mouse! Five years later I was on a Mac, switching back and forth on different platforms, making little videos and communicating via the Internet with people all around the country. I have evolved. So has the legal profession.

In 2005 I started a virtual law practice of sorts. My clients are other attorneys, and for tax work, tax professionals. I have given myself the moniker “onshore outsource attorney”. Other attorneys who do what I do call themselves “freelance attorney” or “of counsel attorney”. What we do is legal research and writing for our attorney-clients.

  1. Hiring An Outsource Attorney. There are many reasons an attorney would want to hire an outsource attorney. By far the biggest reason is time. Legal research and writing can be tedious, especially if that is not the primary focus of the lawyer’s practice. After spending a day in court and meeting with clients, an attorney may be spent. After all, there are just so many hours in the day. An outsource attorney can free up some of the hiring attorney’s time to do other things, like sleep!
  2. Hiring Onshore. No attorney wants to lose control of his or her case. I am always mindful that while I may make recommendations to the hiring attorney, I ultimately work for the hiring attorney. When a hiring attorney hires an onshore attorney, he or she is hiring an attorney who has been trained and barred in the United States, is familiar with English the way it is spoken in the United States, and is cognizant of the same ethical obligations to the client as the hiring attorney. There is no need to receive assurances as to the ground rules and competence before a project starts.
  3. Outsourcing Benefits Small Firms. Probably every attorney has had an opportunity to take a matter not quite in his or her practice area, but wanted to take (or keep) the client. By hiring an outsource attorney to conduct legal research and/or writing the hiring attorney can get up to speed quicker. It is analogous to bringing on a new associate to assist with an increase in caseload, only without the commitment, obligation to provide additional office space, and the responsibility to pay workmen’s compensation and other insurances. Hiring an outsource attorney can help small firms grow into medium-sized firms and beyond!
  4. Financial Advantages of Outsourcing. All jurisdictions allow the hiring attorney to expense the outsource attorney’s fee. Most jurisdictions allow the hiring attorney to add a premium to the fee of the outsource attorney as long as the ultimate fee is “reasonable”. It is basically the same standard as if the firm hired an associate; the firm would bill for that associate’s time as well.

In addition, most marketing professionals will tell you that even in good times, a businessperson should be spending almost twenty-five percent of his or her time promoting the business or law practice. Again, the word of the day is “time” because there is never enough of that commodity. The bottom line is that a lawyer must spend a certain amount of face time in order to maintain a law practice, let alone build one. Its not smart to be stuck in the office while that solo down the street is jawboning at the latest community fundraiser.

Visit Corrine A. Tampas at her site: What’s Your Authority.


Maker Spotlight On Freelance Attorneys

Filed under: Blogging | Tags: , |

Winchester Skate park pool Judi O

CC photo credit: Judi Oyama

I recently put out the call for contract attorneys to share their experience. I want to bring you the best practices to make a working with a contract attorney a success. This also gave me the chance to connect with a number of amazing freelance lawyers who are makers in their own right. Here are some of the best!