UST Law Invites MFAN Member Karin Ciano to Talk About Freelancing

January 27, 2014: it’s so cold outside that schools are closed and classes at the University of St. Thomas School of Law are canceled. And yet, a hardy group of law students and recent grads have braved the weather and gathered for “Going Solo 101,” a new day-long workshop sponsored by the UST Law Office of Career and Professional Development. It was a fun way to beat the cold and learn about starting a sole practice. Consumer lawyer Randall Ryder started a conversation with the group about the decision to go solo. Family lawyer Allison Maxim described the financial operations of a sole practice. Minnesota Lawyers Mutual claims attorney Angie Hoppe discussed ethics, risk management, and malpractice insurance. Career Services director Kendra Brodin introduced Minnesota CLE’s New Lawyer Initiative. And I had the chance to discuss starting a freelance practice, which I believe can be a great opportunity for new lawyers to meet—and benefit from the supervision of—more experienced lawyers. I’m glad to see there seems to be considerable interest from students and new grads about solo and freelance practice. Many thanks to the University of St. Thomas School of Law for inviting me, and thanks to everyone who attended! If you saw the presentation, I’d love to have your feedback and questions in the comments. Karin has been a litigator at Debevoise & Plimpton; a law clerk to three Minnesota federal judges; a legal writing teacher at NYU Law, William Mitchell College of Law, and the University of Minnesota Law School; and a sole practitioner and freelancer in Minnesota… MFAN Bio | Email | Web | LinkedIn | Google Plus | MFAN...

MFAN Members Present CLE for HCBA Solo & Small Firm Section

On January 24, 2014, MFAN members Emerald Gratz, Karin Ciano, and Lynn Walters presented a CLE for the Hennepin County Bar Association Solo & Small Section entitled “The Art, Science, and Ethics of Working with Freelance Attorneys.” The hour-long CLE presentation was attended by more than 20 HCBA members. Emerald, Karin, and Lynn addressed several ethics topics relevant to attorneys interested in seeking help from a freelance attorney: billing, confidentiality, and conflicts. They also shared information and examples from their own work as freelance attorneys. Overall, the CLE was a great success and attendees were engaged by a lively and informative dialogue. MFAN thanks the HCBA Solo & Small Firm Section for the invitation and great discussion! Effective September 10, 2014, Emerald has accepted a position with the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings and is no longer working as a freelance attorney. You can reach her at emerald_gratz@hotmail.com. MFAN Bio | Email | LinkedIn | Google Plus | MFAN...

Vetting a Freelance Lawyer: Questions to Ask, Answers to Expect

Whether you’re searching for freelance help on your own, or interviewing candidates recommended by a matchmaker, these questions may reveal whether a freelancer is a good fit for your project. 1. Where are you admitted as an attorney? If you call yourself a freelance attorney, you should be an attorney. That means J.D., bar pass, admission to a state bar, no current suspensions, keeping up with CLE requirements, and following ethical obligations. These should be straightforward questions to answer (and verify); if you hear discomfort or evasion, or if anything doesn’t check out, pass. 2. Do you freelance exclusively? Some do, some don’t. If the attorney is also a sole practitioner, consider whether you’re marketing to the same client base. Freelance attorneys understand stealing clients is a no-no, and are comfortable working in the background without direct client contact. 3. Do you have malpractice insurance? Some do, some don’t. If they don’t, ask your carrier about how to ensure coverage. 4. Do you check for conflicts? One right answer: Yes. 5. How long have you been freelancing? Listen to how they talk about their work; it will give you a good sense of their experience, maturity, and judgment, all of which hint at how much supervision will be needed. 6. What kinds of projects have you worked on? You’re listening for relevant experience, enthusiasm, and discretion. The freelancer should be able to convey clearly what they did, while protecting the identities and confidential information of everyone involved. They should also be able to give you references. 7. Do you ever subcontract tasks to others? Some do, some don’t; it may depend on the project. If they do, they should be comfortable talking in general, hypothetical terms about when, why, how, and to whom. If you don’t get the sense confidentiality will be protected, conflicts checked, and tasks adequately supervised,...

Using a Freelance Attorney to Cover Parental Leave

Planning for the addition of a baby or small child to a household is time filled with both joy and anxiety. The question of how to maintain and temporarily transition work or professional obligations weighs heavily on the mind of many people, especially attorneys. Attorneys at big firms, small firms, solo practices, and in-house legal departments all face the same struggle of finding coverage for their cases, transactions, and projects while they are out on parental leave. Sometimes colleagues can temporarily shoulder the burden of overseeing and working on extra cases. But what if that is not an option? Another solution is to contract with a freelance attorney to cover parental leave. Whether an attorney going out on parental leave needs litigation projects completed, transactional work done, court appearances covered, or just another attorney to monitor mail and handle any emergencies, there is a freelance attorney out there who can help. Most freelance attorneys focus on a niche practice area and offer their expertise to other attorneys needing help with a related case, transaction, or project, on a short-term or long-term basis. An attorney seeking help to cover a parental leave period can look for a freelance attorney with experience in his or her practice area. Once a freelance attorney is found, a written freelance work agreement can be put into place to cover all necessary parameters of the working relationship. Many options for billing arrangements exist, including an hourly rate where the freelance attorney is only paid if help is needed. And the peace of mind that comes with knowing that an experienced freelance attorney is willing to step in and cover tasks is free! Although it may seem daunting, finding assistance for the duration of the parental leave is more easily attained than some attorneys think. Being proactive and organized can lead to a great working relationship...

In 2014, Focus on Systems to Achieve Your Goals

If you’re one inclined to set New Year’s resolutions, you know that this can potentially turn into a stressful and ultimately disappointing ordeal, despite your best intentions. Some people, instead of making resolutions—which are often all or nothing affairs—set specific and achievable goals to work toward. Achieving those goals requires implementing a specific system: for example, if your goal is to run a marathon this year, your system is your training schedule. And if you implement an effective system, you may succeed in terms of your progress even if you don’t reach the ultimate goal. Here are a few systems you can implement to work toward goals you may have for your practice in 2014: 1. If you want to increase your networking efforts, pick one group or activity to get involved in on a regular basis. Your bar association is a great place to start looking for ideas. Then commit, participate, and contribute. 2. If you want to get more organized, choose a specific area (your e-mails or financial records, for instance) and create a gradual process for achieving the organization you desire. If recording business expenses is an issue for you, for example, start this January with a new system for keeping up with this task. Put the item on your calendar every week and make a habit of giving it regular attention. 3. If you want to do more marketing, commit to one or two articles or presentations, or other efforts that will increase your presence in your target market, such as a blog or another online marketing method. The specifics of this will vary based on your practice area; the point is to focus on what you can do on a regular basis to increase knowledge of and familiarity with your practice. 4. If you are interested in doing pro bono or volunteer work, commit...

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