Yes, the legal industry is undergoing a vast transformation. It’s not what it used to be 20 years ago and attorneys are constantly hearing about the ways in which their trade is changing.
“Everything depends on billing. How many hours do you spend even thinking about a client. I don’t care if you’re stuck in traffic or shaving or sitting on a park bench.”
Gene Hackman, As Avery Tolar, The Firm
It’s not just electronic discovery, alternative billing models, document automation and knowledge sharing – the way the legal system operates has also changed.
Things that were not acceptable in legal in the past (working remotely for example) are now acceptable. New technology and changing attitudes are transforming everything.
Wind of Change
With the employment of lawyers projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, demand for legal work is expected to continue and grow.
In recent years there’s an increase in the number of lawyers and firms hiring lawyers on an interim basis and also the number of legal professionals choosing interim work as a career path (source).
Lawyers choosing to work on an interim basis do so for a number of reasons:
- Seeking to work in different industries;
- Enjoying greater control over their working life;
- Looking for a wider variety of organizations to work for.
“Some more progressive law firm managing partners estimate that between 20% to 40% of their entire legal workforce will be freelance within 5 years.”The Rise of the Freelance Lawyer
As a result, freelance attorneys benefit from growing demand, roles are always available through different marketplaces, start dates are flexible, compensation is very competitive and one can expect to experience a flexible work-life balance with diverse projects.
New Ways to Hire, New Ways to Play
The advent of new technology and how it is used in law practices is opening more opportunities than ever for attorneys to diversify their practices and more flexibly perform work for their clients. It is also presenting challenges never before faced by the industry.
New opportunities are presenting themselves to work remotely, have non-lawyers perform certain tasks, and outsource work to other lawyers. Even offshore service providers are used in order to more cost-effectively deliver services for clients.
“It’s the biggest change in the American workforce in over a century, and it’s happening at lightning speed.”Robert B. Reich on the gig economy
Hiring a full time lawyer is an expensive business: lawyers bill less than 30% of their time and the average lawyer dedicates only 2.4 hours to billable work per day. And if that is not enough, there is overhead, benefits, taxes and extras.
“For the employee to receive $50,000, the employer has to pay from $62,500 to $70,000 per year.”The True Cost of Hiring an Employee in 2019
These days, temporary legal workers and contract attorneys can increase utilization.
Where Is This Coming From?
There are a few reasons for this change. First, would you ever think that a lawyer could work remotely in the very conservative legal industry? In 2019, we clearly have the technology (email communication, client dashboards and videoconferencing) and gained momentum so that remote attorneys are less unthinkable than it once was. This is also especially attractive to younger lawyers who know their ways with technology and are more open to change their ways.
This leads to a decrease in the need for a lavish downtown offices with expensive furniture that clients are no longer willing to pay for.
Second, there are good reasons for lawyers to hire part-time lawyers:
- Increase in workflow;
- Cover for someone on maternity leave or long-term sickness;
- Temporarily acquire a lawyer with specialist knowledge;
- To assist on short term projects.
Third, by removing expenses and overhead of hiring more full-time employees when case volume goes up and move to bigger offices to support the growing firm, legal professionals can now work more efficiently and charge clients lower fees.These changes are further amplified by the fact that, for the first time in history, four generations are working side by side in the workplace: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, every solo practitioner and law firm are interested in increasing their bottom line. The goal is to drive greater margins and firm profits and at the same time to increase savings and value to clients.
“If lawyers only focused on law it would be paradise, but so many other things keep lawyers from law.”
There are many resources providing insights on being a freelance attorney, and tools and online platforms that makes it easier to find opportunities that any lawyer can start with that.
By taking new innovative approaches to find legal work and hire legal help, the legal industry is now more accessible for attorneys to find more opportunities.