The Rise of the Legal Freelancer
The legal profession is undergoing significant change – the way that people work; their priorities and other factors have meant that more lawyers are looking to work on a freelance basis – a business model which has been prevalent in other sectors, is now increasingly becoming a real and better alternative to private practice in a traditional law firm.
Here Bhavini Kalaria, the founder of The London Law Practice, a firm operating with a network of consultant solicitors and lawyers, explains the factors she believes have led to the rise of the legal freelancer.
I started as a sole practitioner initially because as a single parent with a small child, normal legal practice just didn’t work for me. As an experienced practitioner, there were limited opportunities to advance my career and balance child care.
It quickly became apparent to Bhavini, having spoken with other female practitioners who had taken time out after maternity leave, that there were many who were looking to find a way back into practice, but didn’t want the restrictive working practices of full time employment.
As her firm grew, she started working with freelance practitioners who were able to provide the kind of service she wished to offer to her clients, and who were keen on work which fitted around their own personal circumstances.
At the same time, when the firm started, cloud-based systems and technological changes meant that expanding the number of areas of practice by increasing her network of lawyers was more than feasible. The ability to work securely and from outside an office, has only increased as systems improved.
Bhavini also observes that it isn’t just the ability to work in a dispersed way, which has changed – but also the real pressures on the high street brought about by regulatory and commercial pressures.
As the legal market has become increasingly de-regulated and traditional high street practices have had their monopoly on certain areas of practice removed – there are more and more people who don’t feel that there is any security or certainty in becoming successors or taking on partnership in traditional practices. The commercial incentive is no longer there and the way that people buy legal services has changed completely.
Instead of taking on historic liabilities, younger entrepreneurial lawyers would rather build a client base in a firm like The London Law Practice and leave the headache of taking on insurance and the problems associated with closing down a practice to others.
Being a partner in a practice is just not that attractive – from both a commercial, regulatory and life-style perspective.
Freelancing gives a level of control over both the flow of work, the value on your own time, and also the level of risk you take on, whilst maintaining the ability to build and look after your own client base.
No doubt, as further changes are brought in by the SRA (which is looking at allowing individual lawyers to practice in unregulated firms) the choice of how to work, who to work with and the individual solicitor’s ability to build their own personal brand and value will mean that freelancing will continue to be increasingly a better or best choice option for solicitors.
The rise of the freelancer is not just about technological change – it’s fundamentally about personal choice, commercial change and regulatory pressures.