A freelance lawyer, sometimes called a contract lawyer, is a lawyer who does legal work but isn’t associated with a law firm. Freelance lawyers are independent contractors. They work for themselves in their independent businesses and work through a written agreement.
Some freelance lawyers work for businesses, either small businesses or for the legal department of a larger business, or they work for law firms. Other characteristics of freelance lawyers include:
- They may work on temporary legal projects or on a continuing basis.
- They specialize in everything from bankruptcy to white-collar crime. As independent business people, they can work for clients, depending on how much time they want to give to their business.
- They do all the typical legal tasks, including research; preparing pleadings, motions, discovery requests, and contracts; running depositions; helping prepare for trials: and appearing in court.
- Some may even do paralegal work, for tasks that don’t require a law license.
Not all online lawyer sites are for matching clients and lawyers. For example, American Bar Association provides a database of legal professionals. The site allows you to search for a law firm based on the location and the type of service they provide. You can then get in touch with the firms to discuss your needs for a lawyer.
A lawyer and an attorney aren’t the same. An attorney has passed a bar exam and practices law in a court, but a lawyer doesn’t. So, an attorney is a lawyer but a lawyer isn’t necessarily an attorney.
Can I Hire a Freelance Lawyer to Work Online?
Many freelancers work online these days. It’s not that difficult with technology, including video and secure document sharing. Be sure the freelancer is licensed to work in your state and look into increased security (attorney-client privilege) for conversations and communications.
How are Freelance Lawyers Different From Law Firm Lawyers?
Law firms hire attorneys full-time to work on projects and they represent the firm in all their work. The attorneys bring in business for the firm, but they get credit for these promotional activities in increased compensation and promotion.
Freelance lawyers are not associated with just one firm. They may be more flexible with their time, and they may work from home, online, or in your office.
When Should You Hire a Freelance Lawyer?
You can hire a freelance lawyer anytime you need some special legal work done for your law firm or your legal department. For example, let’s say the legal department of your business typically works on contract matters. If your business has just been sued for wrongful termination and you don’t have a specialist on your legal staff, you could search for a freelance lawyer to work for you on this case.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages?
The advantage of hiring a freelance lawyer is the special expertise they can bring to a case. In the example above, getting someone to run a wrongful termination case from within your company can bring you the benefit of the person’s experience.
Another advantage is that hiring a freelance lawyer gives you flexibility in your legal staff. When you are busy, you can hire a contract lawyer, then when the work is done you can let them go. You also don’t have to pay benefits to these workers, since they are independent, not employees.
One disadvantage of hiring a freelance lawyer is that this person doesn’t know your business. It takes time for someone to understand your processes and policies. You will have to spend time giving the person information about the project and your business. If you are in a time crunch, this could take more time than you have.
The other disadvantage is the opposite one. You don’t know if the lawyer is going to be right for this job. There are many excellent freelancers out there, and you don’t know until you hire the person whether they will work out. Be sure to carefully check work references and resumes.
How Much Do They Cost?
Most freelance lawyers, like other lawyers, work on hourly rates, but it’s also possible to have the person work on a flat fee or retainer basis. The cost varies based on the complexity of the work and the experience of the lawyer.
What are Some Tips on Working with a Freelance Lawyer?
- Make sure your expectations are clear and complete. In legal matters, you don’t want any misunderstandings or assumptions.
- Don’t try to hire a contract lawyer for a complex assignment if you are short on time. Hire for lower-level work like writing documents or doing research and do the high-level work yourself.
- If you are a law firm, consider how you will handle letting clients know that the freelance lawyer is on board with this case. Law Technology Today says “if the freelancer is engaging in the practice of law and working directly for the client, then informed consent from the client must be obtained.”
How Can I Find the Best Freelance Lawyer?
There are several online services, including Montage Legal, Upcounsel, and Lawclerk, that have databases of freelance lawyers. They can match your business with a freelancer using your criteria. Most also provide support services to the freelancers and they serve as billing and collections agents. The contract between you isn’t usually part of their services.