Job opportunities for contract and freelance lawyers

By Audrey Herrington

My first six months out of law school were filled with uncertainty. Would I pass the bar? Would I find a job? Would I live with my parents until, in a fit of desperation, they taped an eviction notice to the door of my high school bedroom?

When I started working in document review after passing the bar, I wouldn’t have called myself a “contract lawyer” as much as I would’ve called myself “thousands of dollars in debt to the government” or “tired of working at the mall.” But the number of contract and freelance lawyers has grown significantly in recent years as more lawyers seek a work-life balance that isn’t always available in a traditional firm environment. Similarly, firms have begun looking to freelance lawyers as a way to reduce legal fees and cut overhead costs while still meeting clients’ needs.

What is the difference between contract lawyers and freelance lawyers? Typically, contract lawyers work directly for an agency that pays them an hourly rate for work on long-term or large-scale projects. This model is very common for document review attorneys. Freelance lawyers, on the other hand, work directly for another attorney on specific projects. A freelance lawyer may be brought in to draft a complicated brief or even to make a court appearance. Freelancers generally have more flexibility to work from home than contract lawyers, although this depends on the contract agency.

Job opportunities. If a flexible schedule and the ability to work from home are important to you, but you don’t want to give up on the framed J.D. hanging in your home office, contract or freelance work may be for you. While there are many considerations, such as malpractice insurance, access to Westlaw or Lexis, and contracts with individual firms, there are a lot of resources out there to help get you started. In addition to these resources, you should always check out your state bar website; they often have job opportunities that include contract work. Below are two examples of companies that hire either freelance or contract attorneys.

 

  • Freelance. Hire an Esquire – Hire an Esquire’s platform enables attorneys and other legal professionals, including paralegals, law librarians and legal administrators, to set up profiles that allow them to see and apply for available work and also to be seen and hired directly by firms. Hire an Esquire handles payroll, taxes and other administrative work. Freelancers track their time directly on the Hire an Esquire platform and can even receive insurance benefits. Hire an Esquire has attorneys in all 50 states and covers a wide range of legal specialties.

 

  • Contract. Epiq – Epiq is a multi-national legal process outsourcing (LPO) provider. Epiq is a major provider of eDiscovery services, and it offers law firms, government agencies, and large corporations the document review services they need to accomplish large-scale litigation and other matters. Attorneys working for Epiq are supervised directly by Epiq, unlike a freelance arrangement where the freelance attorney is supervised directly by the hiring attorney/client.

Audrey Herrington is a 2018 graduate of Saint Louis University School of Law who is now working as an associate at Kodner Watkins in Clayton, Miss. She provides insight for newly minted lawyers in the fast-changing legal field.