Hiring a freelance lawyer? Make sure to check out my in-depth guide on mistakes that you need to avoid when you hire freelance lawyers.
In 2019, freelancers contributed more than $1 trillion to the US economy. While that’s good news for aspiring freelancers, many small business owners can benefit from the gig economy boom as well.
Think about it this way. Every business needs a professional attorney to oversee its legal needs. But, legal services are quite expensive, especially if you hire a lawyer onboard your permanent team.
What if I told you that there are more than 25000 registered lawyers working as freelancers online? However, the long list of choices can easily confuse employers who’re unsure what they’re looking for.
I’ve compiled the common mistakes recruiters make when they hire freelance lawyers for you to take notes and save your time and effort. So let’s get started.
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Common Mistakes People Make When They Hire Freelance Lawyers
The reason to hire a freelance lawyer is simple. Why invest in a long-term deal with a prestigious law firm when you can hire a freelance lawyer for cheap rates whenever the need arises?
But, since everyone advertises themselves as the shiniest coin of the lot, you can easily get deceived if you don’t know what to look for.
Here’s a list of mistakes you should avoid when you hire a freelance lawyer to handle your legal requirements on a contract basis.
Hiring A Lawyer Before Your Company is Established
Small business owners are usually short on budget and go to every length to save money where they can.
However, most startups are also apprehensive about their legal needs; they end up hiring a lawyer before they even know what sort of counsel they’ll need.
Remember, there’s a fixed freelance lawyer hourly rate, so every minute you spend with them costs you money. Before you hire a lawyer, it is important to identify the areas you’ll need their counsel to make sure you put your money to optimal use.
Did you know that there are many legal transactional clinics you can visit and figure all this out? These clinics are usually operated by law school students geared towards community service.
These students work part-time to guide startups about their legal needs, including negotiating and compiling contracts and organizing legal entities.
Similarly, if there are no such institutions in your area, you can call the local bar association or refer to the local law library. Once you get all this sorted out, you can move on to hire a freelance lawyer for your company.
Furthermore, if you do your homework, you can come across many pilot programs catered by famous law schools that give their students a practical learning experience.
Here, startups can hire freelance lawyers and get services such as drafting and filing for trademarks at lower prices than professional law practitioners.
Choosing a Lawyer From Another Area of Expertise
Startup owners or anyone who needs legal assistance usually get excited at the prospect of every advertisement endorsing freelance lawyers. However, not every freelance lawyer works for your respective field.
For example, you can find a freelance patent lawyer, a freelance immigration lawyer, a freelance divorce lawyer, and a freelance criminal lawyer. Still, neither of them has the expertise of the other.
While it is also easy to find attorneys that work out of their area of expertise, none of them will deviate from their respective law fields. That’s why before you hire freelance lawyers, conduct thorough background research to make sure he can cater to your needs.
Picking the First Attorney You Meet
Have you ever visited a shopping center and purchased the first clothing item or pair of shoes you like? Probably not.
Unfortunately, most people are not that keen to look around when it comes to people and services. Whatever you do, do not pick the first attorney you meet.
Select some relevant names from the internet, and compile your list of lawyers to connect with. Similarly, you can get referrals from fellow business owners or even friends and family.
Even if you’re impressed by the first attorney you met, move on with your list and make sure you reach out to each one. You never know someone else might turn out to be more approachable or even demand a much lower remuneration package.
Besides that, there are many online freelance platforms with hundreds of registered freelance lawyers offering their services. Here are some well-known sites you should visit while looking for a freelance lawyer.
Flexjobs is a legit online platform where you can find professional freelance lawyers. The site is easy-to-use, and you can start skimming through potential employees as soon as you become a member.
What I love about Flexjobs is that it thoroughly scrutinizes and tests its freelancers before letting them onboard. Besides that, it offers various skill tests that freelancers can take to increase their popularity and reliability on the platform.
Meaning, as an employer, you can quickly check the skill test results and comprehensive resumes of freelancers and see whether they fit your needs before approaching them.
Furthermore, professionals also have to mention their freelance lawyer salary or hourly rate on Flexjobs. So, if you’re looking to hire freelance lawyers based on rates, you can easily check their demands and reach out to them accordingly.
SolidGigs is another popular platform where aspiring freelance lawyers can connect with clients like you. The platform is easy-to-use and has an intuitive interface, making it easy for you to find the perfect match.
What makes SolidGigs stand out from other freelance sites is that it attracts high-quality professionals.
While a lawyer would typically have to pitch hundreds of clients to get a few freelance lawyer jobs online, SolidGigs makes the process easier by providing weekly gig lists.
Although the platform charges a premium for this service, it makes sure clients and freelancers avoid the hassle of connecting with irrelevant people.
This not only saves your time but makes sure you get the best professionals.
Hiring Through Family Recommendation
Your dad has suggested a close friend of a far-off aunt who is an attorney. That’s great! You should totally hire him and get the cheapest rates possible, right? No.
Hiring someone based on your family or friends’ recommendations is the most common mistake people make when hiring freelance lawyers. While there is a chance they might fit your needs, probably, they won’t.
The ideal way is to go with a professional. You see, if you hire an attorney based on your family ties, they might not know the nuances and law structures of your area.
This will eventually lead to mistakes that will cost you a lot in the long run. Instead of hiring a lawyer from your family circle, try asking your business associates and corporate acquaintances.
Unlike everyone else, these people will help you get some relevant leads. You can also get a hands-on insight about the freelance lawyer through them before you contact him yourself.
Approaching High-End Law Firms First
When it comes to hiring freelance lawyers, small businesses might find it appealing to go for top-notch law firms, even for contract-based services. Well, that’s not a good idea at all.
Lawyers working at high-end law firms are not freelance lawyers by nature. They usually prioritize permanent clients, and partners only work with such clients as well.
Besides that, as a small business, you won’t be able to afford to pay for a high-end law firm as your go-to legal service permanently.
That’s why, for a one-time service, you’ll probably get the most junior lawyer to do the job, with a high price tag, considering the name of the firm.
That’s why, if you hire a freelance lawyer, the best way is to search for independent attorneys from the private sector or search online freelance platforms.
I am not saying hiring established law firms is a bad idea. But you should leave that to when your company is large enough, you’re planning a merger, or fighting a serious lawsuit.
Agreeing to the Price They Propose
I know what you’re thinking. Who haggles for the price with a prestigious law representative? But, believe me, it works in the same way as you would hire any contract-based service.
Similarly, a little negotiation will make the lawyer appreciate your concern for your finances and might even help you design a favorable package.
Freelance lawyers work for monthly salaries, project-based fees and mostly get paid by the hour. When they pitch you as a potential client, they’ll most likely propose their hourly rate.
Based on the services you need and the expertise and time it will require, try to bring them to a project-based price. This will lower your legal expenses considerably.
Although risky, another way to hire a freelance lawyer at low prices is to offer some equity from your company.
However, only go for this technique after reviewing the legal contract thoroughly because you’re getting the services on credit. Things can go wrong in that regard, especially if you’re hiring a freelance lawyer.
Not Deciding on the Payment Arrangement Before Sealing the Deal
You should confirm the payment arrangement with the freelance lawyer you’re working with before signing a binding contract.
As I mentioned, freelance lawyers may usually quote an hourly rate. However, if you’re looking for a flat fee or a salary, you should get those things out of the way before hiring.
Not deciding on the payment arrangement may cause adverse consequences for you in the long run. You might even end up spending more than you need.
A quick tip; try to go for the flat fee quote when you hire a freelance lawyer.
That way, you can control how much you pay the freelancer for your services and fit the price into your budget easily. On the contrary, if you agree on an hourly rate, you cannot determine the amount his fee will add up to.
Not Reviewing Essential Documents
Hiring a freelance lawyer in itself is a risky business. But, it is also the best way to save money on legal services.
So, if you want to save money and get high-quality services simultaneously, you’ll have to do your homework. Some employers hire a freelance lawyer without reviewing their licenses and permits.
For example, not all corporate lawyers are allowed to appear in court on your behalf. Similarly, it is possible that your freelance lawyer is not licensed in your jurisdiction.
Such mishaps will end up wasting your time and effort without any substantial outcome. That’s why make sure to review all the permits, licenses, and essential documents. This confirms whether the freelancer is fit to work for you.
Not Taking Clients in the Loop
As a small business owner, your high-end clients may disregard the quality of freelance legal services. That’s why most business owners hide the fact from their clients, which in my opinion is dishonesty, to some extent.
Moreover, if failing to disclose the complete facts to clients is against local businesses’ law in your jurisdiction, you can fall into legal trouble.
The ideal way to avoid this mess is to take your clients in the loop and mention that you hire freelance lawyers in all agreements. After all, you’ve carefully vetted the attorney before hiring him for your services. So there’s nothing to fear, right?
Nevertheless, if you have a touchy client who you know won’t accept such practices, look for the fine print in local businesses’ law. If it mentions that the client only can object if the freelancer is directly working for him, there’s a loophole for you.
In this case, make sure you limit the freelancer’s services to your organization and not involve them in direct legal matters concerning your clients. This way, even if the client finds out and disapproves, you won’t face legal consequences.
That concludes my list of common mistakes you should avoid when you hire a freelance lawyer. In a nutshell, you should take his field of expertise, rates, work portfolio, and professionalism into account before you sign the contract.
Start by identifying your needs. Then, shortlist relevant lawyers from online freelance sites, connect with each one, and discuss all the necessary aspects.
Even though a freelancer will provide services on a contract basis, he will deal with your legal matters. This makes him as important as your business partner. So take time to choose the ideal person to avoid any issues in the future.