Be Your Own Boss: Freelance Attorneys Are on the Rise

Dayna Maeder
More young attorneys realize that the traditional sunup-to-sundown rigorous work schedule is not the only path to a successful career.

More young attorneys realize that the traditional sunup-to-sundown rigorous work schedule is not the only path to a successful career.

PeopleImages via iStock

From the scenic beaches of Hawai’i, freelance attorney Timothy Rodes provides legal writing services to boutique and solo law firms across the nation. Describing what he does for a living as his dream job, Rodes enjoys the unlimited flexibility to spend time with his family while living in an ideal vacation spot and working during the hours he sets for himself. Rodes is just one example of the lifestyle freelance attorneys can have. Many attorneys are launching freelance careers from stay-at-home parents to wanderlusts who constantly travel to army families who are always on the move.

Gaining Work Through Networking

There are various platforms set up that connect hiring attorneys with freelance attorneys. One platform is LAWCLERK, which connects attorneys looking to freelance with an extensive network of lawyers looking for extra help with work product during a busy season or on a substantial case. LAWCLERK co-founder Kristin Tyler indicates that “A very demanding part of the legal industry is client-facing, and many [freelance] attorneys don’t want that. They want to do research and writing. To match up those two is really powerful.”

Montage Legal Group is a nationwide network of remote freelance lawyers who perform project-based work for law firms needing help with overflow and specialty areas of law. Co-founders Laurie Rowen and Erin Giglia worked together at a large business law firm until their daughters were born when the pair decided to go out on their own as freelance attorneys. After recognizing a gap in the marketplace for attorneys seeking freelance work, they formed Montage Legal Group. “The legal landscape has changed and will likely continue to change,” Rowen said. “Many law firms have scaled back their growth . . . and will likely turn to hourly freelance lawyers when they are busy.”

Freelance Work Can Be Full-Time

In the ever-changing legal field, more young attorneys realize that the traditional sunup-to-sundown rigorous work schedule is not the only path to a successful career. What has previously been touted as nontraditional is becoming mainstream, especially as newer generations of lawyers challenge the status quo. These platforms can ease freelancers into project-based work or be a primary source of obtaining business. Reasons for choosing freelance work include flexibility in schedules and prioritizing mental well-being. It has also proven to be highly profitable. “The sky’s the limit; you can be as busy as you want to be,” said Tyler, who uses the LAWCLERK platform to locate freelance attorneys for her boutique law firm. “The legal market is so huge, and there’s so much work.”

Part-Time Freelancing Offers Generous Work-Life Balance

After a cross-country move and a pause in her legal career, Denise McGinn looked for alternative paths in the legal world. Now, using the Montage Legal network, McGinn works as a part-time freelance attorney, balancing her legal career with volunteer commitments and family obligations. “I sought freelance work to find a balance . . . but I quickly learned that it offered me so much more,” McGinn said. “I thrive off the different challenges I work on with a variety of lawyers.” McGinn assists clients on projects ranging from quirky civil procedures to appeals. Working as a freelance attorney allows lawyers to meet interesting people across various practice areas and work on cutting-edge legal issues.

Freelance Work Helps Fulfill Dreams

Working as a freelance attorney can also provide lawyers with the freedom and flexibility to pursue other passions while still supporting themselves through legal work. One such attorney is Nareissa Smith, who is transitioning into the field of journalism. That transition means her workflow may not always be consistent. Smith has sought out freelance opportunities through the LAWCLERK platform to sustain her lifestyle in between writing opportunities.

“My favorite clients are criminal defense attorneys. They are doing important work but are often completely overwhelmed,” Smith said. “I like thinking that I am lightening their load while making the justice system a bit fairer.”

No matter the reason—whether it’s a desire for flexible hours, more time to pursue passions, or the chance to work in a variety of practice areas—freelancing is a viable and lucrative option for young lawyers.

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Dayna Maeder is the founder and principal attorney at The Maeder Law Firm, P.A., where she works primarily in Florida state and federal appellate law.