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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,...

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...

Go Ahead, Turn Me Down

I love rejection.   Well no, I hate rejection as much as the next person, but I love it when people get in touch to tell me they’re rejecting me.  And so I want to encourage you all to do it—early and often. A friend once told me years ago that it was the “maybes,” not the “nos,” who made scheduling dinner parties difficult.  No is no; you cook five pork chops instead of six.  But maybe is uncertainty, and that’s harder to plan for.  Ever since then I’ve tried to say “no” as quickly as I can, and if anyone has been upset, they haven’t mentioned it. A freelance lawyer’s job is part dinner-party host, part air-traffic controller:  you have to learn how to manage your calendar to get projects completed and make hiring attorneys happy.  A “maybe” can tie up your schedule, making it hard to take on new projects.  There’s also an element that reminds me of dating: of course you don’t want to nag someone who hasn’t decided yet whether to work with you.  So there’s a lot of waiting by the smartphone, wondering if you’ll get the email that says “we’re on.”  As with dating, you learn how to read the signals (usually silence) that eventually let you know they’re just not that into you, so you can move on and look for other work.  Two or three out of ten contacts might turn into a project.  Rejection is part of life as a freelance attorney; it’s not meant personally, so it’s important not to take it that way. Which is why, even when I already suspect the project is not going to materialize, I love it when someone actually reaches out to tell me “no.”  First, it’s a classy gesture; it communicates that they’re a stand-up professional, and that they respect and appreciate me...

Book Review: The Freelancer’s Bible

When I first started my freelance law practice, a friend told me about the Freelancers Union. Founded by Sara Horowitz (now a MacArthur Fellow), the nonprofit Freelancers Union provides information, contract forms, and an online community for freelancers throughout the United States. They even provided health insurance to freelancers in New York before the Affordable Care Act, and now are making insurance available nationwide. Horowitz’s book, The Freelancer’s Bible, is meant to be the go-to resource for freelancers in any field, not just law. And it delivers. Seriously, folks, this is the best book on freelancing I’ve read, and if you’re going to do this kind of work, I heartily recommend it. Horowitz breaks the start-up process into seven steps—from understanding why you want to freelance, to targeting your market and setting rates. She discusses office options (from working at home to coworking to renting space); client relations (finding them, establishing a working relationship, setting boundaries, troubleshooting); networking (from events to social media to email marketing); and business decisions about finances, transportation, time management, insurance. Horowitz even offers diagnostic tools to help you optimize your freelance gigs (doing your preferred tasks at the time of day you’re most productive). The book is full of great tips, including building a “freelance portfolio”—that is, a stable of diverse clients necessary to ensure a productive and (relatively) even workflow over time—and also a “love bank” of relationships with other freelancers who can help you take on projects even when you’re busy. I have found both to be incredibly helpful. Three years in to my freelance practice, I find Horowitz anticipates the issues I’m facing, and has great answers I can use right away. So whether you’re new to the game or experienced, consider adding The Freelancer’s Bible to your reading list. At a sturdy 486 pages (including index), it’s a comprehensive resource,...

Why Law Firms Need Freelance Attorneys

In a recent post, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog discussed findings from the 2014 Law Firms in Transition survey, an annual report compiled by a national legal consulting firm. Highlighting the average $160,000 starting salary for new associates at large law firms, the WSJ Law Blog poked fun at law firm leaders for their delayed response to a changing market where clients and competition are demanding more cost-effective legal representation. Despite the WSJ Law Blog’s conclusion that new associates at large law firms are “too expensive and often misaligned with client value perceptions,” the blog post poses an important question for all law firms, large and small: what is the best way to deliver cost effective yet high quality legal services in a changing and competitive marketplace? One of the primary pieces of advice proffered by the 2014 survey suggests that law firms of every size need to “align staffing with profitability.” Specifically, the survey admonishes law firms to stop assuming that a new associate is needed whenever work volume is pressing, and instead consider conserving expenses by using “different kinds of lawyers.” And what type of “different” lawyer might fit the bill? Answer, a freelance attorney. Freelance attorneys are independent contractors who can be hired by law firms on a contract project basis to work on a specific case, transaction, or project when extra but temporary help is needed. Experienced freelance attorneys require a minimal investment of time and training by the law firm, but produce high quality output and add value to the end result of any case or transaction. Plus, the cost of using a freelance attorney is economical because the freelance attorney will be the least expensive attorney billing on the file. The end result is an efficient win-win for both the law firm and the client that doesn’t adversely impact the quality of...

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