Lawyers, worried about how a recession will potentially affect their careers, are starting to explore uncommon options. According to a July 11 poll by Magnify Money, a Lending Tree Company, 70% of Americans believe a recession is coming—most in the next six months. For lawyers, the last recession brought unprecedented layoffs. This leaves many lawyers considering what’s next.
Luckily, changes in the legal landscape provide today’s lawyers with many more options than they had in 2008.
Lawyers Are Striking Out on Their Own For Control and Flexibility
Some lawyers are leaving their W-2 jobs to launch their own businesses.
Although hanging a shingle may not seem like a way to protect your career at first glance, it can provide more security depending upon how one builds their firm. Sarah Soucie Eyberg was doing contract work for several firms when the Covid pandemic started. She quickly saw that work disappear and it gave her the push to start her own firm. Soucie Eyberg said, “Now, as the owner of my own firm, I have multiple sources of revenue—which is based on the number of clients on my roster—instead of a single paycheck.”
I knew the billable hour didn’t work for most of my clients. Now that I have my own firm, I can experiment with different pricing models and find a combination that works for me and my clients.Brandon Harter
Lawyers running their own business can let their vision and values lead the way. This opens up new opportunities like breaking from the billable hour or offering alternative legal solutions. Brandon Harter recently launched a litigation firm in Pennsylvania because he wanted the flexibility to charge his clients differently. “I knew the billable hour didn’t work for most of my clients. Now that I have my own firm, I can experiment with different pricing models and find a combination that works for me and my clients.”
In the past, lawyers leaving firms to start their own businesses didn’t have much in the way of help or resources. Today, however, there are more options to learn what law school failed to teach—how to run a business. Online resources like lawyerist.com provide their complete guide series on everything from launching to pricing and hiring. And coaching communities, like Lawyerist Lab, pair lawyers with other firm business owners and professional business coaches.
The Rise of Legal Adjacent Companies
Lawyers have new options with the advent of legal adjacent companies. This includes Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) businesses that serve lawyers. Or, an organization trying to make legal services more accessible to the public. The way we deliver legal services is changing, and savvy lawyers can use this to their advantage.
Many legal adjacent companies are looking for lawyers. They can provide insight into how lawyers practice, or even knowledge of a particular legal field. For example, our own Zack Glaser uses his experience running a small law firm to assess legal technology offerings for other small firms. He says, “Understanding the particularities of running a business as a lawyer helps me determine the benefits and detriments of particular products from the standpoint of our readers.” Other lawyers have found success as evangelists for particular software like MyCase or Clio.
Lawyers joining these companies enjoy many advantages including being able to use their legal degree outside the state where they are admitted. For attorneys ready to move to an area with a lower cost of living, this presents an easier path that doesn’t require another bar admission. Other lawyers may simply enjoy using their knowledge differently from the traditional practice of law. For example, instead of writing briefs or appearing in court, lawyers can help companies develop products that help lawyers work faster and better. Many will enjoy a job that doesn’t depend on churning out a requisite number of billable hours each month.
Lawyers Find New Opportunities with Freelance & Contract Work
More attorneys are deciding to forgo traditional jobs and opting for freelance or contract work. Freelance work allows lawyers to practice law and use their training without tying them to a single law firm or employer. Platforms like LAWCLERK make it easy to connect with attorneys looking to hire contract attorneys. Alternatively, legal recruiters can also connect lawyers with short-term and long-term contract work.
Lawyers are choosing the freelance path for the flexibility it offers. Freelancers can pick and choose the jobs they take. Many lawyers appreciate the ability to control their schedule. During Lawyerist Podcast Episode 388, Jason Lawerence explained that working as a freelance attorney through LAWCLERK allowed him to work more hours some weeks and choose to take on less other times.
I really wanted to orient my life and my practice at that point around freedom. And, I did.Jason Lawerence
More importantly, for some, they can work many of these jobs from anywhere. Lawerence shared how he escaped a hard Midwest winter and instead spent a month hiking and enjoying the Las Vegas area. Lawyers should keep in mind, however, that with this flexibility comes some uncertainty. Freelance lawyers don’t always know where their next job is coming from, or how long it will be.
Even if you’re not worried about how a recession could impact your job, lawyers are considering more flexible legal careers. Many attorneys are drawn to these paths because they want to run a healthier law firm. Others simply want to add a little freedom to their day. Currently, however, what may have seemed a tenuous career path could actually add certainty to your life. Whatever the reason for breaking from the norm, skilled attorneys will happily find many alternatives. Attorneys will benefit from taking the leap intentionally, instead of waiting for a surprise to sneak up on them.
Last updated August 11th, 2022