Just like any other field, the legal industry is also changing at rapid pace, providing more legal opportunities for both law firms and freelance consultants. Many careers in the legal industry lend themselves to freelance work, including lawyers, paralegals, court reporters, legal secretaries, litigation support personnel, and legal nurse consultants. For legal firms, hiring freelance lawyers and other assistants can be a good alternative just like transcription outsourcing companies, which will help expand their capabilities without recruiting permanent employees.
With the service from freelancers, firms can reduce their overheads and any extra costs, such as holiday pay and maternity leave. Remote working also allows interested lawyers to work for their former employees, but on a more flexible basis.
Freelance vs. Official Court Reporting
Court reporters with certification have the best job opportunities. They capture the words spoken by everyone during a court or deposition proceeding and then prepare verbatim transcripts of proceedings either by themselves or with the help of a legal transcription company. It is to be noted that now majority of court reporters work outside of the courthouse. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) reports that more than 70 percent of the nation’s 35,000-plus court reporters work outside of the courthouse.
While official court reporters are employed by the judicial system, freelance reporters are typically independent contractors or work for a court reporting firm. Freelance court reporters can either choose to work solely with the courts or work only with attorneys taking depositions and other sworn statements. In both cases they play a key role in the legal process.
Official court reporters enjoy both job security and a steady income. Another advantage with official reporters is that once hired, they will be assigned to a specific court room and can work with the same judge and other office personnel every day. But, freelancers do not have to worry about having any downtime or searching for work even if their regular attorneys retire or move away. Official reporters have set salaries, set hours, and benefits such as health insurance and pensions. But freelancers do not receive such benefits.
Freelance Lawyers vs. Sole Practitioners
In recent years, there is an increase in the demand for freelance lawyers. With this option, qualified lawyers can work more flexibly or develop their specialty. Freelance lawyers also assist other lawyers and law firms with legal writing and research and any overflow litigation work they may have. By working as a legal consultant in their own time, lawyers do not have to be constrained in a law firm environment, which is a more attractive option.
Also, they do not have to stick to any particular firm: they can work for several as well as pick and choose the work they take on. Along with enjoying a better work-life balance, these lawyers can also benefit from a greater variety of work and a larger range of clients. While most individual practitioners have an office, a legal assistant or law clerk, office equipment and furniture, technology has provided the freedom for freelance lawyers to work from anywhere in a paperless ‘office’. These lawyers can meet their clients over Skype, phone, email or other options. As they do not have to deal with ongoing files, they can even choose to go for a vacation once the current assignment is done. They are free from the confines and structures of conventional businesses and can work in their comfort zone. Many busy lawyers often outsource their challenging legal works to these consultants, which provides them time to focus on their work.
However, lack of financial certainty is the biggest drawback. Also, these legal consultants will have a much smaller client market than sole practitioners as they work only for other lawyers, law firms, or legal departments and do not provide legal advice directly to non-lawyers.
Though not that challenging, freelancing also requires a high level of organization and an ability to stay on top of the administrative burdens. Documentation processes such as transcription tasks can be outsourced to general transcription companies. With assistance in transcription, freelancers can also well manage their work and time efficiently and focus completely on their core tasks.