Freelance Attorneys as Independent Contractors in Minnesota

IndependantContractorAgreementOne important consideration for both freelance attorneys and the attorneys who hire them is whether a freelance attorney will work as an independent contractor or an employee. Under most circumstances, a freelance attorney should be classified as independent contractor pursuant to Minnesota Rule 5224.0210. In this rule, the Department of Labor and Industry set forth criteria for classifying the work of “professional persons”—including attorneys—as independent contractors. Freelance attorneys fulfill the six listed criteria as follows:

  1. Freelance attorneys set up their own businesses (sometimes in combination with a solo practice), complete with a business name, cards, and a variety of marketing paraphernalia.
  2. When needed, freelance attorneys hire qualified people for assistance with their work.
  3. Freelance attorneys acquire and pay for business-related accoutrements like office space, license fees, communication technology, and legal research resources necessary to complete freelance assignments.
  4. Freelance attorneys market their services to others in the greater legal community, including solo practitioners, law firms, and in-house legal departments.
  5. The cornerstone of freelance work is flexibility and control. Freelance attorneys have the freedom to focus on work that interests them and complete assignments within their own schedules and availability.
  6. Freelance attorneys must find their own work and maintain relationships with a variety of clients, otherwise they have no business, reputation, or income.

The classification of a freelance attorney as an independent contractor benefits both sides: the hiring attorney does not pay employment taxes or benefits, and the freelance attorney maintains control over the work assignments and scheduling. The terms of this relationship are usually spelled out in writing: at the start of a new project, most freelance attorneys enter into a freelance work agreement with the hiring attorney. This written agreement not only provides both sides with clarity regarding rates and terms, but also establishes a framework for the entire arrangement that supports classifying the freelance attorney as an independent contractor.

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

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