Is There Such a Thing as a Freelance Lawyer?
The world of work is changing and flexibility appears to be the way of the future. A major cause of this shift is the increase in efficiency of remote working methods over recent years - plus, the rise of an on-demand culture has resulted in more and more occurrences of professionals choosing their own hours to fit around their lifestyle.
This week Lawyer Monthly hears from experts at DPP Law, who answer the above question: is there such a thing as a freelance lawyer?
So what about the legal sector? As one of the oldest and most established industries in the world, you could be forgiven for assuming that the self-employment trend is not one that has heavily influenced lawyers or solicitors.
So is there such a thing as a freelance lawyer? If so, what are the differences between engaging one and choosing employees of a firm
The Rise of the Freelance Lawyer
Yes – there are self employed lawyers working freelance across the UK.
The option to work from home, from abroad or from any other location is beneficial to professionals in a variety of fields – particularly those working to balance their career with parenthood, travel or the running of another income source or “side hustle”.
Freelance lawyers are not usually restricted by the set opening hours of a firm, and so may be more flexible when it comes to the times during which they will be willing to meet and work with clients. If their time is managed correctly, there is the potential for legal professionals working in this way to devote more time to individuals – particularly in the early stages of their career when their work at a firm may see them burdened with excess paperwork from colleagues and higher-ups, sometimes delaying the more practical side of their employment.
Is Freelance the Best Choice?
All of the above may sound very positive, but there are certainly downsides to choosing the assistance of a self employed legal specialist.
For example, there is no minimum amount of professional indemnity insurance required for freelance lawyers and solicitors – so there is no guarantee that you’ll be covered if you are unhappy with the performance of your chosen specialist.
The fact that a freelancer may operate from anywhere could also prove something of a spanner in the works – while unlikely, there is the possibility that a solicitor working from a coffee shop may inadvertently reveal sensitive details of your case to others through a lack of security consciousness (even failing to turn off a screen as they head to the counter for a refill may have serious consequences) Alternatively, the theft of a stolen laptop or tablet containing your personal details may compromise your case and potentially your personal safety.
Unless it is somehow written into a contract, there is also no particular way of ensuring that your freelance lawyer – armed only with their own laptop – has full and proper protection against malware or the theft of information via hackers and scammers.
Furthermore, while the flexibility of a freelance schedule may sound beneficial at face value, there is always the potential for an unattached lawyer to bite off more than they can chew and either fall behind on their work or fail to allow themselves a sufficient number of dedicated hours to work on your case – meaning tasks can be rushed and bodged.
Unless they are employed through an agency, a great deal of a freelancer’s time is taken up by seeking out new clients and trying to secure their custom – something that can distract from the vital work they should be performing for you.
There is also the risk of work “drying up”. Should you choose to employ a freelancer, you may one day find themselves among their only remaining clients. As a result, they may be forced to shut up shop due to a revenue shortage and seek employment elsewhere, leaving you high and dry.
In conclusion, while freelance lawyers may be able to offer you a more flexible and focussed service on paper, the potential for them to find themselves saddled with too much or too little work and the distraction of always having to seek new clients to keep themselves afloat – along with the lack of security that you may risk by engaging them (both in terms of quality control and privacy) – still mean that making contact with a long standing and well trusted firm is usually a safer and more effective option.