I wrote the foreword for Kimberly Alderman’s new book, the
Freelance Lawyering Manual in the hopes that law firms on one hand, and unemployed attorneys and re-entering parents on the other will take a fresh look at freelance lawyering in the 21st century.
Unlike most things in law — and life, freelance lawyering, represents a win-win for all involved. Lawyers, particularly those in solo practice and small firms benefit from outsourcing since it gives them access to well-credentialed talent that they couldn’t otherwise afford full-time. Moreover, by cutting out the middle-man of the placement agency (which can take up to half of the rates that law firms pay for contract lawyers) and retaining freelancers directly, lawyers can afford to hire newer graduates for basic tasks (such as researching blog posts, or acting as a gopher during a trial) while paying them a living wage. On the other side of the coin, newer lawyers who choose to freelance gain the benefit of flexible, varied work and can remain competitive and relevant at a time when many contract-based document review jobs are sent overseas or automated.
Still, for all of its benefits there’s much about freelance lawyering that remains misunderstood. The Freelance Lawyering Manual debunks many of the myths of freelancing and shows how to freelance both professionally and ethically. Perhaps the most important message that the book sends is in the first chapter, where Kimberly cautions that notwithstanding the apparent freedom that freelancing can provide, those who undertake freelance jobs should expect to work hard meeting deadlines and accommodating lawyers’ needs. Too many times, new lawyers believe that they can function as “amateur” freelancers to fill in the gaps in an otherwise slow practice, and while that’s possible, you need to focus on serving the lawyers who hire you. Likewise, freelance lawyers can’t expect work to drop into their laps – they’ve got to pound the pavement, both online and equally, if not more importantly, face to face; joining bar committees, speaking and networking. Finally, Kimberly explains why freelance lawyering is a completely different animal from contract lawyering (aka document review!)
After giving an overview of freelancing, Kimberly delves into the nuts and bolts; providing a range of rates that freelancers might charge as well as the types of costs they can expect to encounter (including legal research tools in some instances and malpractice insurance). This portion is one of the book’s strengths as there are so many questions about what to charge as a freelancer and Kimberly offers as much information as is possible in a book that will be read by freelancers in different locations (where rates can vary).
Likewise, Kimberly explains why it’s fair for hiring lawyers to mark up freelancers’ rates. I know that some freelancers begrudge the mark-up, feeling that lawyers are making money off their labor – but they fail to take into account the costs incurred by the hiring lawyers in terms of added insurance, supervisory and review time (some of which can’t be passed off to clients) and the marketing that goes into bringing in clients to begin with. In fact, the book includes a fairly thorough discussion of ethics, though it apparently went to press before the ABA Ethics 2020 that outsourcing pioneer Lisa Solomon covers here.
Kimberly reminds freelancers about the importance of protecting themselves in contractual arrangements. Sad to say, many lawyers are themselves unscrupulous and may not want to pay a freelancer until the client pays. Kimberly explains why a freelancers’ fees shouldn’t depend on the hiring lawyer’s ability to collect and most importantly, includes an extensive sample contract, as well as examples of informal “e-mail” agreements that freelancers can use with minimal modification.
Whether you’re interested in freelancing as a way to stay in the law or to lighten the load at your law firm while improving the quality of work delivered to clients, Kimberly’s book is an important — and most current and comprehensive — addition to the emerging body of work on freelance law. Whether you view freelancing as revolutionary as Kimberly does, or a newly branded version of a practice that always existed, as I wrote in the foreword, one thing’s for sure:
At a time when big law is crumbling and unemployment rates in the legal profession are at an all time high, many legal futurists and thought leaders view freelance lawyering as the future of the legal profession….
just as freelance lawyering moves our profession forward from a stagnant, century-old business model of law firm partnership, freelance lawyering takes us
back as well, to a time in our profession when lawyers worked together collegially and respectfully, young lawyers thrived on intellectually stimulating work instead of drudge work, and everyone made it home in time for dinner. Freelance lawyering can revive the best of our profession’s past as tomorrow’s possibility.