Traditionally, the legal industry has been reluctant to embrace change. This has led to an image of stuffy, boring firms, long hours, and little flexibility for lawyers. However, slowly but surely, innovation is starting to occur as more and more lawyers realise that a better way of working must be out there. Enter the world of the freelance lawyer.
Freelance lawyers, also sometimes known as consultant lawyers, get to enjoy the best of both worlds. They can build a career in the traditional industry they love whilst also enjoying all of the benefits of self-employment. So, it’s no wonder that it’s becoming an ever more attractive option.
If you’re a lawyer looking for something new, you may be wondering, ‘can I become a freelance lawyer?’ It is a common question we receive here at Setfords. This article aims to walk you through the basics, including what a freelance lawyer is, the benefits and requirements, and a few points you need to consider before you take the jump.
What is a freelance lawyer?
A freelance lawyer is a lawyer not employed by a traditional firm. Instead, they are essentially self-employed, sourcing their own clients. Many freelance lawyers choose to work under the umbrella of a firm such as Setfords, which can provide them with the essentials such as insurance and admin support to make their working life more manageable.
If you choose this path, you can either take on individual clients in your chosen area of law or be hired by other lawyers or firms on a freelance basis. And, you can either work for a firm where all of the lawyers are freelance consultants or one where there is a mixture of freelance and traditionally employed.
What are the benefits?
There are numerous benefits to the freelance lawyer model. Some of the most significant benefits include:
This is probably the number one reason to become a freelance lawyer. Traditional law firms usually operate with a rigid 9-5 structure, billing targets, management responsibility, and more. However, by becoming freelance, you can set your schedule, work from wherever suits you best, work towards your own targets and enjoy all of the freedoms that being your own boss can offer.
No office politics
If you’re tired of office politics taking up your time, you don’t have to get involved when you’re working for yourself. Work towards your own goals instead of having to worry about climbing the corporate ladder.
Often, if you become a freelance lawyer, you can take home a more significant percentage of your billings than you would at a traditional firm. To give you an example, you may expect to take home up to a third of what you bill at a conventional firm. But at Setfords, you can take home up to 80%. Learn more about the rewards we offer here.
Plenty of variety
As a freelance lawyer, you can choose which clients and projects you take on, keeping things exciting and you engaged in your work.
With a flexible schedule, you have the freedom to spend as much time as you wish on your passions outside of work. Whether that’s family, travel, hobbies, or something else, you can build your career around your life, and not the other way around.
Can I become a freelance lawyer?
If you think that the life of a freelance lawyer is the one for you, you are probably wondering how you can make the switch. Of course, the exact requirements will depend on the umbrella firm you are looking to join or whether you want to work entirely on your own. Most freelance lawyers choose to work under a firm as it provides them with the essentials they need, such as insurance and admin support, but they can still reap the benefits of being self-employed. Most firms will be looking for a certain level of experience. For example, here at Setfords, we are looking for UK-qualified lawyers with at least five years of post qualified experience.
How can I become a freelance lawyer; what are the basic requirements?
- Notify the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
- Make sure that you have a letter of engagement and terms of business. These need to meet the requirements set out by the SRA.
- To offer reserved legal services, you must have three or more years of post-qualification experience (although, as mentioned, if you are joining an umbrella firm, their specific requirements may vary).
- Professional indemnity insurance is also required. If you’re working under a firm such as Setfords, this should be provided for you.
You’ll also need to think about where your clients are going to come from. If you’re becoming freelance after being with a traditional firm, you will probably have already built some solid relationships with your existing clients. As a result, some of them will likely follow you to your new venture. There are also other ways of getting new clients, primarily from marketing activities in your chosen areas. A good umbrella firm such as Setfords will be able to help you with this. For example, in the last twelve months, we have helped generate more than £3m of new business for our lawyers.
What do you need to know before becoming a freelance lawyer?
Working on a freelance basis as a lawyer is an exciting new way to deliver legal services. It is indeed becoming more popular. However, it is essential to bear in mind that it is a change that will not necessarily suit everyone. Before you decide to make the switch, there are some things you need to consider:
- Will it suit your personality and strengths? Freelance lawyers need to be independent, entrepreneurial, self-motivated, and willing to build a network from the ground up. These are all traits that will give you the best chance of success as a freelance lawyer. If you don’t have all of these traits, you are by no means a bad lawyer, but a traditional firm may be more suited to you.
- What are your motivations for wanting to become freelance? Similarly, you need to have a strong ‘why’ for this way of working. While there are plenty of benefits, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication, so you need strong motivation to carry on through the more challenging days.
- Do you have enough experience? Many umbrella firms ask their freelance lawyers to have a certain amount of experience. This is for a good reason. Ideally, you need to know the ins and outs of the legal world before you try and go it alone, as it will stand you in good stead when it comes to attracting new clients and delivering your best work.
- Are you willing to come up with a business plan? A solid business plan is an absolute necessity if you want to become a freelance lawyer. You need to know everything that it takes to essentially run your own business so that you can go into freelance life well prepared, giving you a better chance of success.
- Bear in mind that working as a freelance lawyer is less predictable than with a traditional firm. This may be especially true when you are just starting out. It’s up to you to generate your own business, so there are no guarantees that you will always have regular work.
- If you decide to become a freelance lawyer under an umbrella firm like Setfords, you will mitigate some of these potential issues. For example, we have an extensive network of support staff here to help you with everything from admin to marketing. However, if you decide to become freelance independently, you will not have this safety net. So, you will have to build this into your business plan and account for the expenses (both financial and time-wise) that these will incur.
How can I become a freelance lawyer at Setfords?
The career of a freelance lawyer is undoubtedly a rewarding one, allowing you the freedom and flexibility to build the job you want. Here at Setfords, we believe that we offer the best of both worlds. You can enjoy everything that a freelance career has to offer, working on your terms, where you wish, and with the clients you want to pursue. However, we are also on hand to help you with anything you may need. This includes technical and IT support, marketing and business development, and, of course, your admin needs. So, you are free to focus on what matters: your clients. Find out more about our award-winning support by clicking here.
To become a freelance lawyer at Setfords, you need to be a UK-qualified lawyer with at least five years of post qualified experience. Aside from that, we’re looking for people with an entrepreneurial spirit who want to build a strong network. If this sounds like you, then we want to talk to you! Simply get in touch to start your journey towards a better way of working today. Whether you want to become freelance now, in a few months, or even in several years, it’s never too early to get things going. We’re on hand to answer any further questions you may have and show you how to make the most out of the freelance model.
Thinking about consultancy?
Lawyers who become consultants at Setfords earn more money, experience less office politics, and enjoy a better-work life balance. The next consultant could be you. So get in touch today and take the next step towards a happier life.
Take your first step today