Is working in a traditional career the best option for law professionals today?
No, seriously. With the pandemic completely reshaping how and where work is done, and platforms like Lawtrades making it easier and more lucrative, is going freelance worth it?
Sure, working for yourself can seem scary at first—what if I fail to find clients? What guarantee do I have that this will remain stable?
But for those who take the plunge, it soon becomes clear that freelancing requires some effort initially to get things rolling, but then rewards you in ways a job in a firm never could.
So why should a legal professional go freelance? Let's take a look at some of the hidden benefits of freelancing in legal:
- Work on a variety of cases across different legal fields
- Create the schedule and work-life balance you want
- Make good money, and keep benefits
- Find a community
- Start your own practice
Work a Variety of Cases and Clients
Most attorneys working in a small firm don't have room to take on different types of cases. If the firm does tax law, that's what you do. Even at a Big Law firm, you may only be working on one or two major cases at a time—if that case or client doesn't fully engage you, too bad.
With freelancing, you can work across any type of law you'd like: help with a legal brief for an environmental protection case today, then do discovery for a large contract law case tomorrow. You decide the projects you take on. What's more, you decide the clients you work with, so if there's a client you enjoyed working with (say, that high-growth startup in North Carolina, or that legacy brand in Seattle), you can work with them again and again. Conversely, if there's a client that you didn't have the best experience with, you never have to work with them again.
Flexibility, Flexibility, Flexibility
Are you more night-owl than early bird? Maybe you just become a zombie during the middle of the day and can't get much done, or have to drop the kids off at school every morning and then pick them up every day at 2:30?
If you're at a firm, your work schedule is pretty locked in and overtime is expected. Freelancing allows you to break free from that life, and create a schedule that works for you. Put in a few hours after breakfast and dropping the kids off at school, then come back for a few more hours in the evening when the house quiets down.
Not only this, but it opens up a floodgate of opportunities to pursue other goals. In the freelance world, most of the roles are project-based. This means you’ll be able to dedicate your time to the areas of your expertise, and not get caught up in all the finicky tasks. Dreaming of starting a podcast, or a niche blog? The world is yours.
And if working 3 or 4 days a week is better for you than 5 days—with Tuesday through Thursday being your off days—that's your choice. Plus, remote work means you can be at home this month, and in another country next month, with no need to rearrange things.
Money and Benefits
One of the biggest concerns for people leaving a traditional workplace to go freelance is money. Will I make a comparable wage? Will it be stable? And what about benefits like medical coverage and a retirement plan?
Good news: Lawtrades offers a benefits package. Anyone using the platform who works 30 or more hours per week is eligible to switch to a W2 tax model, and qualifies for paid time off, medical, dental, and vision coverage, and a 401(k). If you dip below 30 hours a week from time to time? That's ok, you won't lose your coverage.
And what about pay? Sure, a seasoned attorney at a Big Law firm in New York or San Francisco can reasonably earn mid-six-figures. Then again, the cost of living in those cities are sky-high. But working freelance can regularly bring you over $100/hr, and you can live/work anywhere.
What's more, the opportunities for freelance legal work are only growing. A 2017 Altman Weil survey found that about 58% of firms used contract lawyers, while about 20% outsourced non-lawyer functions—and that was in 2017.
Those figures have, by all accounts, grown during the pandemic.
All this to say, there is plenty of work out there for everyone. There might be a transitional period while you figure out how to build your client roster, but stability and good money are very possible!
Find People Like You
While it's definitely a plus to remove yourself from office politics as a freelancer, you also get to choose the people around you—that is, your community.
One benefit of using Lawtrades is that the user make-up is much more diversified than most law firms. 60% of the talent network is women, and 35% are minorities. Those figures are double that of Big Law.
Find others like you, and set up a weekly coffee shop work session. Or even build a community of like-minded legal professionals who meet for happy hour. It's a great way to network, exchange tips and opportunities, collaborate, and since you're all freelance, there is no office drama, and the dynamics are so much more relaxed!
Hang Up a Virtual Shingle
Until quite recently, striking out on your own as a legal professional and hanging up a shingle meant tons of overhead: renting an office, taking out ads, hiring staff, etc.
Those expenses are all but gone now. Hang up a virtual shingle, and platforms like Lawtrades help you fill in the rest. No need for an office (unless, of course, you want one), and finding clients is as easy as browsing.
For legal professionals who may not be ready to dive into full-time freelancing, the risks of even just testing the waters have been removed.
If you've been considering leaving your traditional legal job to freelance, it's easier now than it has ever been to do so. Not only is the industry evolving towards a more remote and flexible model, but platforms like Lawtrades remove many of the barriers to branching out on your own.
Freelancing can be a scary proposition, that's for sure. But the quality of life it brings, along with massive opportunity for growth and access to benefits, can be hugely rewarding.