Plenty of lawyers hate to do legal research: It can be tedious and time-consuming, and one mistake can tank an entire case. For lawyers of a certain generation, the very sight of those two-toned, musty-smelling books that all look the same is enough to fill them with dread. For younger lawyers, electronic resources can be just as intimidating and mystifying.
Luckily for Lisa Solomon, she loves that kind of work.
Solomon, a 2017 ABA Journal Legal Rebels Trailblazer, worked at LexisNexis from 1995 to 1996 after the boutique New York City firm she joined out of law school underwent a shake-up within the partnership ranks. Afterward, McCormack & Epstein, a firm she’d worked for as a paralegal before going to law school, hired her to handle its research needs.
The firm decided to make her an independent contractor, and some lawyers would have freaked out about the loss of benefits and steady pay. But Solomon sensed an opportunity.
“I said, ‘OK, that means I can get other clients,’ ” she says. “I started building a business where they were just one of my clients.”
She also had personal reasons. Her husband is a lawyer, too, so it made sense for her to have a more flexible career that involved something she could do from home. And she was the beneficiary of some good timing. Right as she was starting her company, LexisNexis and Westlaw were moving online, allowing her to work from home instead of forcing her to head to the closest law library every time she got an assignment.
Lawyers were starting to use email as a primary form of communication, allowing Solomon to simply send files as attachments and work off a common document instead of having each party type it up from scratch every time.
“Attorneys have, almost universally, been very receptive to the idea of outsourcing legal research and writing,” Solomon says.
Solo practitioners and small-firm attorneys in particular have seen the benefits of outsourcing legal research—especially when it frees up time to work on other matters, she adds.
Solomon didn’t have a business plan set up when she first started. Instead, she just kept doing work and bringing in customers until she was happy with her business. Her company—Lisa Solomon, Esq., Legal Research & Writing—helps attorneys and firms with pretrial memoranda, motions, opinion letters, appellate briefs, oral arguments and the like. She also maintains an active writing career, frequently contributing articles and blog posts about how to conduct more effective legal research and write more persuasively.
Last year, she founded the Now Counsel Network, a referral service that matches freelance attorneys with small firms and solos.
Having a flexible career also has enabled her to pursue her other passions: hunting for wild mushrooms and other edibles, and cooking.
“Freelancing or doing contracts is a common way that new lawyers get started out,” Solomon says. “My innovation was in making that into a career.”