Should you be a freelance lawyer?

Should You Become A Freelance Lawyer
In this article, we explore some of the major considerations for becoming a freelance legal worker that you should bear in mind.

I’ve known a lot of lawyers in my day and several of them have thought about whether they should be a freelance legal worker.

I was a lawyer for more years than I care to admit, and if there’s one thing I know about lawyers, it’s that over half of them wish they could quit today!

That’s because being a lawyer is hard work, and being part of a firm, big or small, is hard work. You have to navigate egos, deal with office politics, and give up most of your personal life just to meet billable hour requirements.

With all that pressure, it’s no wonder so many lawyers fantasize about going out on their own.

But have you really given any serious thought to becoming a freelance legal worker? I’ve done it. And although ultimately, being a freelance writer provided more of the lifestyle I was looking for, I learned a thing or two along the way.

In this article, we explore what exactly a freelance legal worker does and some of the major considerations one should think about before becoming a freelance attorney — from pros to cons and everything in between.

What is a freelance lawyer?

A freelance lawyer, also known as a contract lawyer or solo practitioner, is a legal professional who works independently on a project-by-project basis rather than being employed by a law firm or organization.

Freelance lawyers offer their legal services to clients on a temporary or part-time basis, typically for a specific task or duration.

Freelance lawyers have the freedom to choose the clients and projects they work on — they have control over their workload, schedule, and the type of legal work they undertake.

The work of a freelance lawyer is project-based, so they are hired to handle specific legal tasks such as contract drafting, legal research, document review, or providing legal advice on a particular issue, typically on behalf of individuals, businesses, law firms, or other legal professionals who require additional support or specialized expertise for specific legal matters.

They will typically charge clients on an hourly basis, on a project basis, or through fixed fees, depending on the nature and complexity of the work involved.

As independent contractors, freelance lawyers are responsible for managing their own business operations, including client acquisition, marketing, billing, record-keeping, and managing administrative tasks.

While freelance legal work offers advantages such as flexibility and autonomy, it also requires them to handle the business aspects of running a solo practice, which some might not be comfortable with (at least at first).

Freelance legal work can take several different forms depending on the expertise of the freelance lawyer. Here are a few examples of what a freelance legal worker can expect to be involved with:

  • Contract drafting and review: Clients may hire a freelance lawyer to draft or review contracts, such as employment agreements, service contracts, lease agreements, or licensing agreements.
  • Legal research and writing: Freelance lawyers can be engaged to conduct legal research on specific issues or cases. They analyze relevant statutes, regulations, and case law to provide clients with legal memos, briefs, or opinions on the researched topics.
  • Document review and discovery: Freelance lawyers may be hired to assist with document review during litigation or other legal processes. They review large volumes of documents, identify relevant information, and help organize and summarize the findings.
  • Legal advice and consultation: Clients may seek the expertise of a freelance lawyer for legal advice and consultation on specific matters. This can include providing guidance on compliance with laws and regulations, interpreting legal provisions, or assessing the potential legal implications of a business decision.
  • Alternative dispute resolution: Freelance lawyers can offer services in alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation or arbitration. They can act as mediators or arbitrators to facilitate negotiations and help parties reach mutually acceptable resolutions without going to court.
  • Legal writing and content creation: Some freelance lawyers leverage their legal expertise to provide content creation services. They may write articles, blog posts, or educational materials on legal topics for law firms, legal publications, or online platforms.

It’s important to note that the specific types of freelance legal work can vary based on a freelance lawyer’s expertise and the demands of the clients.

Freelancers often have the flexibility to choose the types of legal work they offer and the clients they work with, allowing them to specialize in areas that align with their skills and interests.

When considering freelance legal work, evaluate your legal expertise, assess the market demand for your services, develop strategies for client acquisition, plan for financial stability, prioritize professional networking, maintain work-life balance, understand your legal obligations, manage administrative tasks effectively, and invest in continuous professional development.

Remember, freelance legal work offers unique advantages and challenges. It’s important to carefully evaluate some of the following considerations and ensure that freelancing aligns with your career goals, lifestyle preferences, and overall professional satisfaction.

Your time is your own

When you become a freelancer, you set your own schedule. There’s no need to put in hours at the office; you work when you want to work. So, if you are truly a night person — have at it!

You can work all night and sleep all day if you want to. Also, if you are only interested in working 10 hours a week, you can do that too (so long as you can afford it).

So, it should go without saying that effective time management is essential for freelance lawyers.

Prioritize tasks, set clear goals, establish a schedule, utilize productivity tools, minimize distractions, maintain work-life balance, and regularly evaluate.

Say goodbye to a regular paycheck

No matter how many freelance lawyer gigs you think you have lined up, exactly zero of them constitute a sure thing. When you work for a firm or an agency, they’re legally bound to pay you so long as you remain employed.

Freelance work comes and goes. Typically, it “goes” right when you need it most. So, if you don’t have a significant nest egg to fall back on when times are lean, now may not be the time for you to begin freelancing.

That, or just be prepared for the emotional rollercoaster of being a freelance legal worker.

You can control how much risk you take on

Let’s say you don’t want the financial trappings of pesky little things like malpractice insurance. Well, for the most part, freelance legal workers (especially those who solely take overflow work from law firms and other lawyers) are not required to carry malpractice insurance.

In fact, if you’re doing overflow work for a firm, that firm’s malpractice insurance should cover any of the work that is supervised by its attorneys.

It should noted, however, that if you are thinking about starting your own sole practitioner law firm (with its own clients) malpractice insurance is something you’ll definitely want.

You will quickly come to miss the non-attorney staff

This was the first thing that hit me when I left the “comfort” of my big firm life and went out on my own.

I knew how to be a great lawyer and felt confident I could research and write with the best of them, but when it came time to do things like format a legal brief or arrange for service of process, I hadn’t a clue!

Back then, online concierge services like those that One Legal provides weren’t as widely accessible. As a result, I ended up working way more hours than I ever thought possible just trying to figure out things that used to be taken care of by my firm’s paralegals, administrative assistants, law clerks, word processors, law librarians, and others.

Freelance attorney websites you can join

In yet another way, the sophistication of the internet has changed everything. Before online freelancing websites like Upwork or LawClerk came into existence, it was hard to find a steady stream of contract work. These days, all you need is a computer and a reliable Wi-Fi signal and you’re in business; a boon for a freelance legal worker or attorney.

A couple words of caution here, however. First, just because people from all over the world find you on a freelancing website and want you to do legal work for them does not mean you are licensed to practice law where they are located.

In fact, if you’re licensed in a state like California that doesn’t offer reciprocity with any other state, your opportunities will be severely limited.

It may seem safe to just do one little project for them — but that is exactly the type of thing that will get you nailed for the unlicensed practice of law, so do your due diligence before taking on clients.

Also — and I could probably write a whole separate article on this one — there are a lot of lunatics out there looking for lawyers on freelancing websites.

Just because someone professes to want to pay a lawyer doesn’t mean you should take on their cause, so be sure to vet your clients and only work with those who can retain your confidence.

Here are some more websites you can consider using when looking for freelance legal work:

  1. UpCounsel: UpCounsel connects businesses with experienced attorneys. Attorneys can create profiles showcasing their expertise and bid on projects posted by clients.
  2. LawTrades: LawTrades is a platform that matches attorneys with clients seeking legal help. Attorneys can browse available projects and communicate directly with clients.
  3. Priori Legal: Priori Legal is a legal marketplace that connects businesses with pre-vetted attorneys. Attorneys can create profiles and bid on projects in their practice areas.
  4. offers a platform where legal professionals can connect with clients, find job opportunities, and access resources to grow their practices.
  5. Flex Legal: Flex Legal provides a platform for freelance lawyers to find short-term and long-term legal assignments.

It’s lonely out there

One of the great things about practicing law at a law firm is that you’re always surrounded by really smart attorneys whom you can go to for guidance.

Even though you’ll remain friends with many of them once you go out on your own, they’ll be a lot less willing to sit down with you for an hour to discuss your client’s legal issues.

Plus, there are all sorts of ethical traps that arise when you start talking to lawyers you’re not affiliated with about your clients.

How to become a self-employed lawyer

Becoming a self-employed lawyer, also known as a solo practitioner or independent attorney, requires careful planning, dedication, and adherence to legal requirements.

  1. Gain experience: Before venturing into solo practice, it’s often advisable to gain experience working at a law firm, government agency, or corporate legal department. This experience helps you understand legal procedures, build a network, and gain insights into different practice areas.
  2. Choose your practice area: Decide on the area of law in which you want to specialize. Consider your interests, skills, and market demand when making this decision. Common practice areas include criminal law, family law, real estate law, corporate law, immigration law, and intellectual property law.
  3. Develop a business plan: Treat your solo practice as a business. Create a detailed business plan outlining your goals, target market, services offered, pricing structure, marketing strategies, and financial projections. A well-thought-out business plan will guide your decisions and help you stay focused on achieving your objectives.
  4. Obtain necessary licenses and permits: Ensure that you have the necessary licenses and permits to practice law in your jurisdiction. Additionally, you may need to register your business with the appropriate government agencies and obtain any required professional liability insurance. For example, attorneys wishing to serve out-of-state clients will typically have to apply for Pro Hac Vice for cases in another state jurisdiction.
  5. Set up your office: Establish a professional workspace for your practice. This could be a home office, shared office space, or a traditional office location. Invest in essential equipment, such as computers, legal software, office furniture, and supplies.
  6. Build your client base: Networking and marketing are crucial for attracting clients to your solo practice. Attend legal events, join professional associations, and participate in community activities to expand your network. Develop an online presence through a professional website, social media, and online directories. Be sure to maintain a solid book of business.
  7. Provide excellent service: Your reputation as a lawyer depends on the quality of service you provide to your clients. Always strive to deliver excellent legal representation, maintain open communication, and uphold high ethical standards.
  8. Manage finances wisely: As a self-employed lawyer, you are responsible for managing your finances effectively. Keep accurate records of your income and expenses, set aside funds for taxes, and consider hiring a professional accountant or bookkeeper to assist with financial matters.


Being a freelance legal worker presents both opportunities and challenges. When considering freelance legal work, it is important to carefully evaluate the key considerations I have laid out in this article.

By considering these factors and making informed decisions, you can embark on a rewarding and successful freelance legal career.

Remember that every freelancer’s journey is unique, so tailor your approach to your own circumstances and aspirations.

Though I may not have convinced you one way or another on the issue of freelance lawyering, I hope I have raised some important considerations I wish someone had told me about before I left law firm life.

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