Top 6 Tips to Become a Self-Employed Lawyer
Whether you have worked in a law firm for years or just stepped out of university, you might search on Google how to become a self-employed attorney. There might be several causes, such as shared revenue within law firms, boundaries set by companies, advantages of running your own rules, freedom to choose clients or cases, and many others.
Why do you need to become a self-employed lawyer?
A self-employed lawyer is an attorney hired by another lawyer or law firm to complete a legal project hourly or flat. Thousands of lawyers globally yearn to work as freelancers to overcome the strict policies imposed by law companies. Self-employment leads professionals to reach their career goals in a traced way. The good news is becoming a self-employed attorney has never been this easier.
On the positive side, it provides many benefits to becoming a self-employed attorney. You have the flexibility to set your schedule, choose the office, and handle cases to your capacity. You can take a variety of projects from different clients to diversify your portfolio or specialize in a specific area to be the master of it.
With all benefits, the biggest drawback of being alone is that you have to go through the pain of attracting clients, dealing with billing accounts, and building lasting relations with customers after the project. Law firms tend to have large marketing budgets responsible for promotion and branding matters. In the beginning, you will not have the luxury to handle law practice, but it will consume all your energy for marketing and sales.
How to become a self-employed attorney? 6 tips
Before starting with the tips, keep in mind that there is no concrete career path to follow. Some attorneys take a way to sustain work-life balance while some go solely to supplement their income, others go outside of the usual and diversify their portfolio. Whatever the reason is, you can make it by becoming a self-employed lawyer. And the mentioned tips below will usher you on this road.
1. Work for a law firm
The bitter truth about going freelance is that most do not trust the unknown. To become a self-employed attorney with a filled calendar, you first need to gather some experience in your portfolio.
For new starters, once you have completed the educational requirements and earned your license, it would be better to work for a company at first. This way you will gain a variety of experience working in different cases, with other clients, and maybe in various firms.
You can better identify your future path and develop your specialty through gained practice. After reaching a certain level of experience, it will be much easier to land jobs as a self-employed lawyer.
But if you already have substantial experience as a lawyer, you can work on a freelance basis for law consulting services. Being agreed to work for a company will financially secure you and solidify your brand. Plus, companies are pleased to replace inefficient employees with value-brining freelance contacts.
2. Get a malpractice insurance policy
It is vital to get malpractice insurance to begin a self-employed attorney career. Malpractice insurance is a professional liability that provides peace of mind and protects against financial ruin arising from disputed services. This helps to mitigate any risk that can happen in your work.
Ensure that the firm that hires you has sufficient malpractice insurance to cover your work for them. But, it would be best if you also had an insurance policy that has enough coverage for you. Talk to your insurance provider about your plans to get the proper coverage. If you need to understand your needs and options, consult check our other self-employed attorneys’ practices.
3. Set hourly rates
Working as a self-employed lawyer allows you to decide how much you earn and how to receive payments. In common practice, there are flat and hourly rate billings. Each of these has advantages and disadvantages from specific perspectives.
With flat rates, there is transparency and mutual understanding for both clients and you, as everyone is agreed to a certain amount of payment. But things get complicated when the project takes longer than expected, or there are some unexpected circumstances.
However, hourly billing more accurately reflects the work put into the project and is tied with law firm KPIs. It ensures that you set an adequate fee in return for your service. It is nice to provide clients with an estimate of how long your project needs to complete for ethical concerns.
If you want to know how to become a self-employed attorney who adequately compensates her work, you must consider a few matters before setting fees. You might not demand a high rate if you are new to the field.
Your experience stands at the heart of the fee-setting process. An experienced professional can leverage her background to set high fees and land high-paying clients.
Practice area and specialization are other determinants of what you can charge for your service. The fees go higher as you get a more narrowed specialty. Complex litigation or corporate law tends to demand higher prices than civil litigation.
While the criteria mentioned above are fantastic to consider, you also have to be aware of geographical differences. Freelance lawyers with similar backgrounds tend to gain much higher in metropolitan areas than in rural areas. But, the beauty of being self-employed is that you can stretch geographic boundaries. You can physically live in rural areas and arbitrage high-cost urban clients.
Timeline: how much notice a client provides you to complete the project. Reasonably, pressing work and tight deadlines have higher payments.
Tax rules and rates are different for self-employed lawyers and companies. Learn those rules and responsibilities at the beginning and put them into your calculations.
Written agreement: even if you work through a platform, there should be a written contract between the client or hiring team and you throughout the case, including the agreed price. Apart from being professional, it is also the best way to avoid further disputes. It should indicate the scope of work, agreed fee, timeline, and ethical and legal considerations.
4. Build your professional website
It would be best to build a portfolio that communicates your experience to the clients. Here are the key terms you should stress in your portfolio:
Your strengths: highlight your experience by focusing on what you have done and can do. Include your qualifications, the name of the law school you attended, types of law practices you did, and upload your most recent resume to the profile.
Upload a strong photo of yourself wearing professional attire and giving a friendly and approachable look. Side note: you do not have to cross your arms to look professional ?
Writing samples: always have ready writing samples to give clients for review. For litigation work, consider using your public records. But for more personal cases, change the names and remove other personal identifiers.
Reference: since you do not know the clients, support is a must to show your track record. Include references from previous clients and colleges, if possible, incorporate reviews and resting from online platforms to strengthen your reference section.
If you do it, do it right. Technology is your best mentor to building a winning self-employed attorney portfolio. Plus, it makes it easier for clients to find and contact you. Because people go online to find solutions to their problems, imagine it when this is a legal problem. So, it is crucial that you are not anywhere online but reachable online. SEO-friendly website will bring you to the top of search engines and make people connect with you.
Don’t worry about the technical sides of building a website. You can easily create a professional website with WordPress. It is free, easy to use, and expandable. There are specific law firm website templates for law attorneys and plugins to scale your operations. As an example of such plugins, Booknetic has a suite of features to avoid the hustle of setting appointments.
Customizable booking procedures allow you to design bookings according to your terms, remove unnecessary steps, and take the benefits of the appointment booking plugin for law firms.
The appointment booking plugin has a shared calendar, Zoom integration for virtual meetings, automated reminder messages, and online payments to keep both sides in the appointment loop.
You won’t have to worry about taxes and billing clients with the built-in invoice. Using the analytics section, you can track your operations, the number of executed works, and most sold services. And, you can also design the booking process at your will, the booking widget anywhere on your website. To know more about its features, try a live Demo.
5. Join a professional attorney’s network
Working remotely or individually does not and SHOULD NOT alienate you from a professional network. Embrace the power of networking to understand how to become a self-employed attorney that has substantial earnings. If no one knows who you are and what kind of skills and experience you hold in your portfolio, how are you going to make money?
Explore the place you live and work. Attend local legal events and send announcements to other lawyers familiar with your new career path. Ask about their practices and what software or tools they use to automate their work.
Join at least one professional platform to engage with, promote yourself and meet potential clients. But, pick the one with a good reputation and members who share the same law area with you. You can use LinkedIn for business marketing is the most well-known networking site you can use to promote yourself and join other professionals.
Take courses or workshops to supply yourself with the latest tools and knowledge required for self-employed attorneys. Once you reach that level, hold your webinars and presentations to share your experience, and specialized talents beneath how this can help your message.
6. Look for clients
There is a word saying if you do not ask for it, you will not get it.
This might sound a bit odd at first sight but bear with me. No matter which industry or niche you work in, every professional has to adopt the personality of a salesperson. That means you need to be able to sell yourself, your professional background, and your skills to clients. There are multiple ways you can empower this approach. Keep in mind; that this is different from your regular marketing activities.
First is, as we said, after joining the network, ask for cases your fellow self-employed attorneys work on. And then move towards those clients. Make personal approaches to company executives, and managers.
The second, follow the trends and go beyond law firm standards. Engage with business news and influencers portals. Keep track of new companies opened, merged, and hot topics that concern legal help. Turn native business cycles to your advantage. But be professional.
And lastly, as a professional, it is your responsibility to educate people about their rights. In this regard, by any chance, if you encounter people having issues that have to be solved on a legal level, offer your help. Explain to them what that can do on the subject, about the legal compliances. Most importantly, do it on a non-pecuniary basis. Even if the person does not approach you, sure, this will boost your self-employed attorney brand.
Ending notes on how to become a self-employed attorney
As the legal industry is still shaping various patterns of what it means to be a successful legal consultant. Most lawyers get daunted by working in a corporate environment as it prevents them from reaching their personal and professional development goals. Going solo lets, you leverage your experience and knowledge to your advantage.
Whether you want to raise your income, you are in the midst of a career change, and the basics of how to become a self-employed attorney lead you to the place you look for. After that, you have to search the landscape, weigh your professional and business priorities, and make the final decision.