Lessons from #LawJobChat: @LisaSolomon on Freelancing as an Attorney

On July 29, 2010, we hosted our second #LawJobChat.  Our host, Lisa Solomon, has thrived as a freelance legal research and writing attorney and coaches/consults with others to do the same.  She shares some of her experience and tips about freelancing as an attorney.  The chat was such a success, Lisa has agreed to host another #LawJobChat follow-up session soon!


Attorneys & Freelancing


Amanda Ellis (@aellislegal) & Melissa Sachs (@mjsq)

Guest Co-Host

1.  Lisa Solomon (@lisasolomon) -Legal research & writing attorney; Coach/Consultant for other legal research and writing attorneys; Entrepreneur, specializing in fun gifts for legal professionals.

Transcript (copied & pasted from What the hashtag?!)

All times are Pacific Time

1:01 am
aellislegal: Welcome to the 2nd #LawJobChat! Tonight we are discussing freelance lawyering with @lisasolomon#lawjobchat
1:01 am aellislegal: @lisasolomon if you are here, tell us about your background and current practice #lawjobchat
1:02 am lisasolomon: Hi, @aellislegal @mjsq. Thanks for inviting me to co-host tonight #LawJobChat
1:03 am lisasolomon: After law school, I worked for 2 yrs in a small NYC litigation firm, then 1 yr as a trainer 4 Lexis in local law schools. #lawjobchat
1:04 am lisasolomon: Now, I wear 3 hats. 1st, I practice as a freelance lawyer, assisting other attys w/lgl research & writing (LRW) projects. #lawjobchat
1:05 am lisasolomon: 3rd, I am a partner in www.TheBillableHour.com, which sells humorous gifts & greeting cards 4 lawyers & lgl prof?ls #lawjobchat
1:06 am aellislegal: When you answer a Q or ask a Q, try to ref the Q# (i.e., Q1) #lawjobchat
1:07 am aellislegal: Q1 how did you transition into the freelance research/writing? how did you know that was what you wanted do? #lawjobchat
1:08 am lisasolomon: Q1 My husb & I are both attys. We wanted kids & knew 1 of us shd B solo. LRW work is flex. re: time & location #lawjobchat
1:09 am lisasolomon: Q1 Plus, I <3 LRW #lawjobchat
1:10 am aellislegal: Q2 how is your work as a freelance atty diff from work of contract attys through staffing agencies? #lawjobchat
1:10 am lisasolomon: Q2 As a freelancer, I?m a biz owner. I set my hours & decide what I want 2 do (i.e., substantive LRW). K attys =/= much control #lawjobchat
1:11 am mjsq: As a follow-up to Q1, what does a typical day look like for you? re: flex schedule, time & location. #LawJobChat
1:11 am t10nbaum: Q3, when you work freelance, do you work out of your home? Do you operate out of an office? #lawjobchat
1:13 am aellislegal: I’ll let you answer @mjsq and @t10nbaum before I ask other questions #lawjobchat
1:13 am hdifranco: #lawjobchat Do hiring attys want lots of legal exp for freelancers? I practiced 1 yr., then 5 yrs. w/Westlaw. I worry no one would hire me.
1:14 am lisasolomon: Q1 & Q3 I may be working 9-5 some days; others are variable. I have a home office & also work elsewhere on my laptop #lawjobchat
1:14 am hdifranco: #lawjobchat I <3 LRW, too! Took every class my law school offered. Friends thought I was crazy.
1:15 am aellislegal: Q4 RT @hdifranco Do hiring attys want lots of legal exp for freelancers? #lawjobchat
1:16 am lisasolomon: Q$ If U don’t have lots of practice exp., focus on other qualifications (e.g., school performance/credentials, enthusiasm, etc. )#lawjobchat
1:17 am lisasolomon: Q4 As w/other practice areas, hiring attys will look for a mix of qualifications. Some will be willing to go w/less experience #lawjobchat
1:17 am lisasolomon: Q4 in exchange for lower rate #lawjobchat
1:17 am aellislegal: more on Q4 – so, could a recent grad work as a freelance lawyer? I would think they would have advantage since fresh LRW skills #lawjobchat
1:18 am aellislegal: More on Q4 have you seen recent grads go to work as freelance lawyers? #lawjobchat
1:19 am lisasolomon: As an experienced atty, I question fresh LRW skills. New grads need to understand reqs of legal briefs are diff than law rev #lawjobchat
1:19 am t10nbaum: #lawjobchat, to follow up to @aellislegal, can law students do this, focusing more on research and draft writing to be corrected l8r by atty
1:20 am hdifranco: #lawjobchat Thank you! What’s the best way to get started? Was thinking of direct outreach to some area solos and smaller firms.
1:20 am lisasolomon: .@Barrister1988 Less experience=lower rates/salary in any biz or type of law practice. Every1 has to start somewhere #lawjobchat
1:21 am aellislegal: Q4 good pt re fresh LRW skills #lawjobchat
1:21 am lisasolomon: .@t10nbaum Sure; there’s even a website called www.lawclerkconnection.com #lawjobchat
1:21 am aellislegal: Q5 RT @hdifranco What’s the best way to get started? Was thinking of direct outreach to some area solos and smaller firms #lawjobchat
1:22 am lisasolomon: .@hdifranco U R on right track. All my clients R small firms & solos. Larger firms have their own wage slaves, uh, associates #lawjobchat
1:24 am t10nbaum: #lawjobchat And by slaves, @lisasolomon, you mean law students like my self. We love working hard for even a chance at future employment
1:25 am aellislegal: Q6 Where should people who want to freelance put their marketing efforts – approach solos directly? #lawjobchat
1:25 am squirrelpants: How do other freelancers set their hourly rates? #lawjobchat
1:26 am aellislegal: Q6 more on marketing – approach solos/small firms through LI so attys can see your background/exp? #lawjobchat
1:26 am lisasolomon: .@t10nbaum Well, yes; also, in the olden days (i.e., until 2008) firms used to hire & pay associates & work them very hard #lawjobchat
1:26 am aellislegal: Q7 RT @squirrelpants How do other freelancers set their hourly rates? #lawjobchat
1:27 am lisasolomon: Q6 Go where the clients are. Join the litigation section of the bar ass?ns to which you belong. Definitely approach solos direct #lawjobchat
1:28 am t10nbaum: #lawjobchat, @lisasolomon. Shame i missed those days. I’m only going into my second year
1:28 am aellislegal: Q7 more on comp: charge by case or by hour or some other variation? #lawjobchat
1:29 am lisasolomon: Q7 Many factors go into setting rates, incl. ur yrs of experience, any special skills U have & going rate in locality #lawjobchat
1:30 am lisasolomon: Q6 I would do in-person networking rather than approach via LI (latter approach is like cold-calling, not likely 2 work) #lawjobchat
1:30 am t10nbaum: Q8, r there groups of freelance attorneys around in localities? I.e bar ass’n committees for freelancers? Or do u go it alone? #lawjobchat
1:31 am lisasolomon: Q7 U can use various types of fee structures, incl. hourly & flat fee #lawjobchat
1:33 am lisasolomon: Q8 Also, my blog (www.LegalResearchandWritingPro.com). Haven’t heard of local bar ass’n committees for freelancers #lawjobchat
1:33 am aellislegal: Following up to @t10nbaum Q9- what resources, organizations are avail for freelance attys? #lawjobchat
1:34 am lisasolomon: .@Barrister1988 Sorry, I can’t speak to salaries in teaching or journalism #lawjobchat
1:35 am LaLicenciada: Mayb research bt not likely perdiem work. RT @aellislegal: more on Q4 – so, could a recent grad work as a freelance lawyer? #lawjobchat
1:35 am aellislegal: Q10 Tell us more re Legal Research and Writing Pro – I noticed there are different memberships #lawjobchat
1:36 am lisasolomon: Q10 All memberships incl. my e-book (K Lawyering Success), Freelance Freedom teleseminar recording & sample services agmt. #lawjobchat
1:37 am lisasolomon: Q10 Gold includes 3 add’l recorded progs of ur choice. Platinum includes 6 prog recordings & 1 hr private coaching #lawjobchat
1:37 am lisasolomon: Q10 Platinum+ incl. everything in Platinum, plus opportunity to be LRWP certified & get on my referral list #lawjobchat
1:39 am lisasolomon: .@lalicenciada If you have some in-ct. experience, you may get per diem work even if a recent grad. Depends on your skills #lawjobchat
1:39 am aellislegal: Q11 Are there any ethical restrictions on working as freelance lawyer or can u do this in any state? #lawjobchat
1:41 am mjsq: @lisasolomon re: Q10 What does it mean to be LRWP certified? #LawJobChat
1:41 am lisasolomon: Q11 All States allow freelance lawyering. #lawjobchat
1:42 am lisasolomon: Q11 ABA Formal Op 08-451, which I analyze at http://tinyurl.com/6lcfl3, is the main ethics op re: freelance lawyering #lawjobchat
1:42 am LaLicenciada: @lisasolomon I agree. But @ least in Kings County, for per diem there’s a monopoly on it. its 1. who you know 2. Experience. #lawjobchat
1:43 am lisasolomon: Q10 LRWP certified=meeting my standards for writing skill & research & writing efficiency #lawjobchat
1:44 am aellislegal: Q12 What type technology do you use in your practice? #lawjobchat
1:45 am lisasolomon: .@LaLicenciada Success in many fields is based in large part on contacts & experience. Networking is key #lawjobchat
1:45 am aellislegal: More on Q12 – for ex, you blog – is that a skill a freelance lawyer should have? easy to learn? #lawjobchat
1:46 am lisasolomon: Q12 Full list of tech I use is in my Web Worker Daily profile at http://twurl.nl/xn8t1f #lawjobchat
1:47 am aellislegal: Excellent! RT @lisasolomon Q12 Full list of tech I use is in my Web Worker Daily profile athttp://twurl.nl/xn8t1f #lawjobchat
1:47 am lisasolomon: Q12 Freelance lawyer who wants to do LRW should definitely know how to write for various audiences (incl. blogging) #lawjobchat
1:48 am lisasolomon: Q12 I have my own blog & also have ghost-written blog posts & articles (though most of my writing is briefs) #lawjobchat
1:48 am medialawcounsel: @aellislegal: Q 12–your book of course. And so should everyone else. #lawjobchat #amandaellisrules
1:48 am aellislegal: Q13 Do freelance lawyers need their own malpractice insurance? #lawjobchat
1:52 am aellislegal: Q14 have you seen an increase in the use of freelance attys in the past year? #lawjobchat
1:53 am aellislegal: @medialawcounsel Hi, Evan! #lawjobchat
1:54 am lisasolomon: Q14 In past few years, entire profession is exploring ways to lower costs while still providing excellent service. #lawjobchat
1:54 am aellislegal: Q15 Do freelance lawyers need to form a business entity for their freelance practice? #lawjobchat
1:54 am lisasolomon: Q14 Freelance attys serve that role. #lawjobchat
1:56 am lisasolomon: Q15 Same considerations apply as w/any other type of law practice. Must weigh pros/cons (esp. re: taxes) of diff biz structures #lawjobchat
1:56 am aellislegal: RT @lisasolomon Q13 strongly recommend own malpract ins. Details re: why, download guide to K lawyering http://twurl.nl/h5ulxs #lawjobchat
1:58 am mjsq: @lisasolomon, what about Lexis/WestLaw? Do you pay for access out-of-pocket, does law firm, does it depend? #LawJobChat
1:59 am aellislegal: FINAL Q Any parting words, advice for lawyers considering the freelance path? #lawjobchat
2:00 am lisasolomon: Re: Lexis/Westlaw Does a surgeon ask to borrow scalpels? If UR serious re: being freelance lawyer, have ur own subscription #LawJobChat
2:02 am mjsq: @lisasolomon good point. (*blush*) #LawJobChat
2:02 am lisasolomon: I think there is amazing pent-up demand for high-quality outsourced services, esp. LRW. #lawjobchat
2:02 am t10nbaum: @lisasolomon thnx for all the info 2night #lawjobchat
2:04 am lisasolomon: As a freelance lawyer, I have it all: challenging career, flexibility & a comfortable living. U can, too. It’s a growing field #lawjobchat
2:04 am aellislegal: @lisasolomon THANK YOU, Lisa, for sharing your insights into freelance lawyering -thank you to all who participated, gr8 chat! #lawjobchat
2:05 am lisasolomon: .@aellislegal @mjsq Thanks for having me – it’s been fun! #LawJobChat
2:06 am aellislegal: Next #LawJobChat 8/26, 9pm EDT- let us know what you want to discuss – resumes, law firm economics, particular pract area, etc #lawjobchat
2:06 am mjsq: thanks, @lisasolomon. you shared great resources! http://bit.ly/XmtZ (ABA ethics rule),http://bit.ly/aay25k (profile), & sites! #LawJobChat
2:06 am aellislegal: I’ll post transcript from tonight’s chat at some point tomorrow on @LawJobChat #lawjobchat
2:09 am aellislegal: @Jon_Lewis #LawJobChat is the last Thursday of each month at 9pm EDT – join us next month!
2:10 am lisasolomon: Talk about work/life balance: the moment I finished #lawjobchat, my daughter came in room w/ (small) cut, dripping blood
2:10 am aellislegal: @Jon_Lewis and, you can follow #LawJobChat at @LawJobChat
2:11 am aellislegal: Did u follow #LawJobChat? @lisasolomon shared tips RT @bridgetzig @aellislegal I could really use freelance work asap. Any tips?
2:12 am aellislegal: cont. can search #LawJobChat in Twitter search bar RT @bridgetzig @aellislegal I could really use freelance work asap. Any tips?
2:30 am aellislegal: Transcript from tonight’s #LawJobChat http://bit.ly/9G4Fri
2:31 am LawJobChat: Transcript from tonight’s #LawJobChat http://bit.ly/9G4Fri
2:34 am richard_russeth: RT @lisasolomon: Lexis/Westlaw Does a surgeon borrow scalpels? Serious re being freelance lawyer? Have ur own subscription #LawJobChat
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[NYC Networking Event] NYIC Future Leaders kickoff event – November 10th

I know this is a little last minute but I received this e-mail from Edward Neiger, a colleague of mine, and it looks like a great networking event, especially for bankruptcy/restructuring attorneys in the NYC area.  I was given permission to pass on the details but you can also check out the event flyer (PDF).

[M]ingle with top restructuring personalities at the Future Leaders Networking Reception of the New York Institute of Credit.  The reception will take place on November 10 at 6:30 at the classic Arno Ristorante (141 West 38th Street).

Current industry leaders such as Bankruptcy Judges and top attorneys and bankers will meet with small groups of young professionals (i.e., you and me) at the reception.  Industry leaders will rotate tables about every 15 minutes, so that by the end of the evening you will have personally interacted and become acquainted with many of the leading figures of the restructuring industry.  A cocktail reception for young professionals will follow, so that you can get to know other future leaders in a more casual atmosphere.

You can also see Edward Neiger‘s latest PBS segment on the Nightly Business Report.  Select the 11/02/09 program and pay serious attention around the 13:08 minute-mark.

On Networking: Creating a Plan

Recently, I went to a networking event in Philadelphia.  Alone.  Going to a networking event alone wasn’t the worst thing I could do.  I’m pretty outgoing and can strike up a conversation with almost anyone.  However, as I searched for a parking spot, I realized that I had made a mistake in preparing for the event.  In fact, I hadn’t prepared at all.  There, in my car, I realized that I lacked any sort of plan for the evening.

Networking events are awkward for even the most extroverted of us.  Here you are, together with people who you have never met and/or hardly know, in a prearranged closed space (a bar, a conference room, a banquet hall), with finger food in hand, balancing a drink in the other hand, shouting over a roomful of other conversations, pretending to hear what your conversation partner is saying, and, at the same time, covering your mouth in fear of bad breath or misplaced food particles.

Usually, to make networking events more fun (bearable?), I recommend venturing out with other people.  This way, at least, you can casually mingle with others but you have a buddy to pull you away from a long-talker, to brag to once you meet your next biggest account, and/or to tell you if you have something in your teeth.

At first glance, it may seem illogical to advise you to bring a friend to a networking event with you, but I’m not advising you to stick with your buddy all night.  Instead, make a game of it.  Compete to see who can gather the most (worthwhile) business cards or make the most impressive (meaningful) connections.  The loser owes the winner a round of drinks or dinner at the posh restaurant that you both have been meaning to try.  While you’re waiting for drinks, the two of you can share facts about who you met that night and write the vital, mind-jogging information about your new contacts on the backs of their business cards.  The next day at work, you can continue this competition when you see who sends the first “Done!” e-mail (meaning “I’ve followed up and e-mailed all my new contacts.  Have you?”).

When you go to a networking event alone, you need more self-motivation to accomplish all of these things – meet people, follow up with people, not just stock up on finger food and head to a quiet corner where you spend the rest of the night texting your mom, wife/husband, or friend from high school.

This is why creating a plan is essential before you head out to a networking event, especially if you are showing up alone.

When I say, create a plan, this does not have to be a time-consuming task.  I did it while I searched for a parking space.  (I didn’t realize there was a free lot next door.)  I drove around the side streets of Fishtown and answered these questions.  To myself.  Out loud.

Q:  Why did I decide to go to this event?

As someone new to the web developing community of Philadelphia, I wanted to meet others in the field.  In addition, there would be 20 5-minute presentations highlighting a lot of really cool stuff going on in Philadelphia.  If anything this would be an inspiring event…

Q:  How many people would I like to meet at this event?  More specifically, how many business cards did I want to have in my pocket as I left?

For this question, I let myself off easy.  Because the event was (sold out!) at a small, crowded bar, I decided that I wanted to make one meaningful connection that night.

Who (ideally) would you like to meet?  Who would you be happy to meet?

Ideally, I would love to introduce myself to the planners behind Ignite Philly… but I realized that this may be a little unrealistic.  The event required a lot of hands-on coordination throughout the night – setting up audio/visual presentations for each speaker, watching the time, etc.  I decided that the coordinators probably had so much adrenaline pumping that any brief introduction would be almost meaningless the next day.

My second ideal was to meet one of the presenters.  Each of the people presenting were involved with some type of cool, inspiring innovation.

Q:  What would I tell the person who I met?

Of course, this answer would depend on who I met at the event.  However, I always include this question as part of my plan because it gets me to say my “elevator pitch” out loud.  An elevator pitch is a short synopsis on what you do, who you are, what is your purpose.  The premise of the elevator pitch will be the same throughout one stage of your career.  Nevertheless, you probably will want to tweak it in light of your audience.  This should make enough sense.  If I am in front of computer programmers, web designers, and web developers, they may not need to know that I practiced law or recruited attorneys.  I may stick with, “Earlier this year, I quit my job to follow my dream.  I created two websites.  One, http://nonpretentious.com, is a pop culture blog that has contributors from all over the world, ranging from college students to retired law professors.  The other, http://recruiteresq.com, focuses on applying technology to the practice of law. “  Simple.  Easy.  If I’m talking to a true webmaster or web developer, I may add, “nonpretentious.com is a self-hosted wordpress blog and recruiteresq.com is created using Joomla.”   (Eds. note: RecruiterEsq has since been moved over to WordPress.)  This way I can segue into asking for tips or sharing sucess/horror stories.

Finding a parking spot was time-consuming and frustrating.  I ended up being late to the event. (Sidenote: in my opinion, this is not an excuse to bail on the entire event.  If I took a survey of all readers who have *almost* attended a networking event but who have turned around because of “being late” – my wager would be that it’s 100% of you.  Instead of agonizing how you’re late, think about how you can make a professional entrance.  Chances are, if you arrive late, you’ll meet-up with someone else in the lobby or elevator.)  Nevertheless, I walked into the event a little more confident because I had a game plan.

And, I walked away with the contact information of one of my ideal connections.

For the next networking event you attend, what will be your game plan?