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What’s Next for MFAN?

The Minnesota Freelance Attorney Network was founded at a St. Paul café in the spring of 2013 by five lawyers. Some of us were new lawyers, some quite seasoned. All of us were women. At the time, we were working as freelance attorneys—some exclusively, some in combination with growing sole practices, some in combination with growing families. We had a need that none of the organized bar groups had yet tried to meet. Getting together was a great way for us to compare notes, exchange information on best practices, support each other, and elevate our professional game. Back then, independent freelance lawyers were a new thing. Most of the bar hadn’t yet noticed the freelance revolution, and so we created MFAN as a means of educating the legal community about the benefits of, and the responsibilities that come with, working with independent freelance lawyers. We researched ethics, wrote articles and blog posts, and spoke to many different lawyer groups. We created this website at a time when much of the Minnesota bar had no idea what independent freelance lawyers did or how to find us when they needed us. Three years later, freelancing has gone from a quirky pastime to a widely accepted part of the legal gig economy. Hundreds of lawyers now proudly freelance. The Minnesota State Bar Association has established a “Find a Colleague” directory that helps lawyers find other lawyers who work on freelance projects. And the bar has learned who we are, what we do, and how we can help. MFAN is proud to have been part of that change. Our members have been invited to teach at Minnesota CLE’s Strategic Solutions for Solo & Small Firms Conference, the MSBA Practice Management & Marketing Section, the HCBA Newer Lawyers and Solo & Small Firms sections, the Dakota County Law Library, and MoreLaw Minneapolis. Along the...

Freelance Forms on Practicelaw

This spring, resolve to make more efficient use of your time: Download freelance attorney forms from practicelaw. Spring is a time of transition and change. We make plans to get outdoors, get away, play (or watch, or coach) sports, and spend time with family. It’s also a great time to tweak your practice and make it more efficient, especially if you experience a summer slowdown, so that you can spend more time on the things you love. One option to try? Prepare for your next workload crunch by assembling forms that will help you be ready to outsource projects when the time is right. The Minnesota Freelance Attorney Network has created several documents to get you ready, now available online at the MSBA’s website. Many of us are familiar with bookkeepers, administrative staff and paralegals who operate on a freelance basis, but you may be surprised to learn how many Minnesota attorneys work as independent freelancers. We’re part of the move toward alternative models of practice. Freelancers work on projects for other lawyers; we’re like associates, but for the short term. We’re local, entrepreneurial, and usually experienced. We’re admitted to the same bar and are members of the same professional groups and organizations. Some of us (like me) have our own sole practices; others choose to focus exclusively on working for other lawyers. All of us aim to help you meet deadlines, serve your clients, and get your work done. If you’ve never worked with a freelance attorney before, MFAN is here to help. Our website offers some guidance on getting started, and the forms on practicelaw.org will give you more detail on three important aspects of working with a freelance lawyer: identifying projects, telling your client, and making sure you have a clear working agreement. The first step is identifying projects. The checklist, Working With a Freelance Attorney,...

The MFAN e-newsletter – now available quarterly in your inbox!

To celebrate our third year supporting and raising awareness of independent freelance attorneys, the Minnesota Freelance Attorney Network has begun a quarterly e-newsletter.  Our goals remain the same:  to let you know who we are and what we do,  to explain how we fit into the “new normal” for legal services, and to make it easy for those who would like to join us or work with us to learn what they need to know to take the next step. We’ll deliver the same great content you’ve come to love in our blog, plus an expanded range of articles on substantive legal developments and practice management tips from the growing community of Minnesota’s independent freelance attorneys.  In your inbox, four times a year.  It doesn’t get more convenient than this, folks. Want to know more?  Visit our website and sign up for our email list – first issue coming to your inbox in January 2016.  Make this the year you resolve to find more time for yourself in your practice by connecting with fellow professionals who can help you with your workload. May your 2016 be busy and prosperous.  Thank you for your support and happy new year! 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...

Let a Freelancer Help You Enjoy Fall

The days are getting shorter.  There’s a nip in the air.  Leaves are turning.  It’s time to enjoy fall before the snow flies. What should you do to enjoy it? Go to a Wild game in St. Paul.  The season is just starting. Go leaf-watching.  Here’s where the best color is now. There will be some rainy blustery days.  Take that time to bake a cake.  A simple one or something more complicated. Check out the new exhibit at the History Center on the history of suburbia in Minnesota. Walk around a lake with your kids.  Any lake. And help your kids with their homework. Six things you can spin off – to free up more time:  Some legal research.  A freelancer can do some research you may need for trial or appellate briefs.  Or just for assessing the strength of a case. Drafting some motion papers.  A freelancer can draft motion papers for you.  Pieces of a brief or a memorandum.  Or the whole thing. Putting a brief together.  A freelancer can help assemble the facts, research and argument you need for a winning brief. Get help with estate and probate matters. Discovery.  A freelancer can help go through documents to respond to discovery.  Or help draft your discovery requests. Get help with E-discovery in particular. Editing.   A Freelancer can edit briefs or other papers for you. Get help with your website, blog or CLE materials. Whatever it is that you like to do – reading for fun, hunting, going to galleries, watching kids grow, or just goofing off – figure out how a freelancer can help you make that happen. Think about your practice, what you don’t like doing, what can be spun off.  You can do lots of things with time you conserve when you get outside legal help.  Hire an experienced freelance attorney to free...

IT’S TIME TO ENGAGE IN E-DISCOVERY!

I started an e-discovery-focused practice because, well, e-discovery is foreign or even scary to many lawyers. But here’s the thing: you have to engage with the process. All the information that your clients need you to have to represent them effectively exists electronically, and you’re probably missing the boat by not being involved in the process. Sure, you can hire an e-discovery vendor or litigation support firm, or delegate tasks to a paralegal or a “tech guy,” but there’s an important difference between them and lawyers: the former aren’t lawyers. To paraphrase what a colleague of mine (a “tech guy”) said when I worked for an e-discovery vendor: “To technologists, the stuff we’re collecting is just data—ones and zeros. The content doesn’t mean a thing to us.” As a lawyer, my response was along the lines of, “The content is what this process it all about. It’s, you know, evidence, and it certainly does matter to our clients.” I do not mean to knock the professionalism, skills, or dedication of non-lawyers in the e-discovery world, but, for the most part it’s true that they simply don’t think like lawyers. You likely haven’t told them much detail about the causes of action involved in the case, what you know about the facts, or what you need to prove to win or successfully defend your case. You just told them to handle the data and set it up for review. You may have even had them do a first-pass review of the data for you. Now, some may be very, very good. But how effective can they be when they don’t have all the information or training to make decisions with respect to this specific case? How well can they conduct a first-pass review if they don’t realize that an e-mail that doesn’t directly address the product in the case is...

Three Tips for Setting up a Freelance Practice in a New State

I didn’t realize the power of a network until I moved from Minnesota—where I went to law school and worked for three years—to Utah, where my network consisted of only a few family members who were attorneys. Over the past few months, I have learned some key lessons in building a new practice in a new state.   Ask other attorneys, “Whom should I talk to?” When I moved to Utah, I opened an appellate and freelance practice. I spent the first few months talking to the few attorneys I did know and asking them about which attorneys in the area did appellate work. I then contacted those attorneys and went out to lunch with them. And I asked them whom I should talk to. I did the same thing with freelancing—I asked those I knew about which attorneys could use some freelancing services. This way, I started to develop relationships with the group of attorneys who could either use my services or refer cases to me. Get involved in organizations where your ideal client is. I had to figure out who my ideal client was and who would refer those ideal clients to me. The next step was figuring out where those ideal clients and referral sources would be. For me, both my freelance clients and my referral sources for appeals were solo and small law firms (large law firms have in-house appellate groups, so my services would be redundant). So I got involved in a few Utah State Bar organizations where I expected the solos and smalls would be. I originally attended bar organizations for women, young lawyers, and labor and employment; I have recently reassessed where I found the most success so that I can narrow my focus, and I have consequently cut out the labor and employment section. I also attended several CLEs that were...

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