Book Review: The Independence Track: How to Succeed As a Freelance Attorney

IndependenceTrackLooking for a gift for a new lawyer who may be curious about freelance work?

In addition to The Freelance Lawyering Manual, you may want to check out the e-book The Independence Track: How To Succeed As A Freelance Attorney by Marina Modlin.

Books aimed at starting a practice, whether solo or freelance, often assume you’re an experienced lawyer. Knowing how to practice is a real timesaver, but this presumption of experience leaves recent and new law school graduates out in the coldest part of a chilly market.

Enter Marina Modlin. A 2007 graduate of USF Law, Modlin found herself unemployed at the height of the recession, and chose freelancing as a way to build skills and make contacts that eventually allowed her to start her own practice.

The Independence Track offers the lessons Modlin learned and the tips and advice she has for new grads who want to work as freelance attorneys. Divided into 26 short chapters, the book discusses choices familiar to freelance attorneys and solos (where to locate, what to charge, whether to get malpractice insurance or use a corporate form). The second half of the book focuses on business skills that may be particularly helpful to new lawyers, such as networking, branding, client management, professional oral and written communications, and helpful resources. Two excellent chapters—on doing legal work for family and friends, and identifying problem clients—may prevent sleepless nights.

Modlin developed a freelance business model as a “part-time, on-call, long-term attorney” who worked on-site at her clients’ offices and was available 24-7. She deliberately looked for opportunities to learn new skills under the supervision of more experienced lawyers, and was not afraid to supplement her legal work with paralegal or administrative work at the firm when it was available. “In the beginning of your career,” Modlin advises new lawyers, “your goal should not be to make as much money as possible. Instead, it should be to get as much work as possible, and to learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible.” Although I believe the on-call, on-site model may present challenges for experienced freelance attorneys, I think new lawyers needing to learn how to practice will benefit from Modlin’s advice.

Bottom line: New grads and experienced lawyers are in different places when it comes to starting a practice. Even if her business model isn’t for everyone, Modlin offers sound advice to new lawyers considering freelance practice. It’s a quick read at a great price. I would recommend The Independence Track to anyone interested in starting a freelance practice.

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…

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2 Responsesto “Book Review: The Independence Track: How to Succeed As a Freelance Attorney”

  1. Kate Graham says:

    Great review! This sounds like a wonderful resource for someone like me–a new lawyer thinking about striking out on her own. I’m adding it to my reading list for sure.

  2. Karin Ciano says:

    Thanks Kate – glad you like the review, let me know what you think of the book!

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