Law in Pop Culture

What is the “Gig Economy” and Why Should Lawyers Care About It?

By Kristin Tyler
October 09, 2018

What is the “Gig Economy” and Why Should Lawyers Care About It?

Freelancing is nothing new or revolutionary.  When most people think of freelancing they think of it in terms of consultants, graphic designers, or other creative fields.  Law is not the first thing to come to mind despite the fact that “contract attorneys” have been around for decades.  However, the “gig economy” is changing the way lawyers get work done.

So what exactly is this so-called “gig economy”?  It is a labor market of predominantly short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs. 

According to a 2017 study, 36 percent of the U.S. workforce is freelancing. At its current growth rate, the majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelance by 2027. The reason is that it enables businesses to grow revenue with more flexibility and at less cost than goes along with hiring full-time staff. A wide variety of companies in every industry have embraced the use of freelance or contract workers, but the legal industry has been much slower to realize the advantages. Fortunately, that’s beginning to change.

Benefits to Law Firms

As law firm competition, client demands, and financial pressures increase, firms need to look for ways to improve productivity and profitability. A Georgetown University study reported that “the financial performance of law firms over the past 10 years has essentially been driven by only one factor: rate increases.” However, client pushback to these increases means many firms end up having to reduce fees or write off time to keep clients happy. Firms are having trouble bringing in new business, but don’t want to lay off under-performing attorneys.

That’s why law firms are starting to analyze their businesses more closely and explore opportunities to reduce expenses, increase efficiency and better manage operations. One area they are looking at is staffing. According to a study by Altman Weil, law firm leaders reported that alternative lawyer staffing, including using contract attorneys, staff lawyers and shifting work to paraprofessionals is one of the most effective ways to improve performance and profitability. In fact, five years from now, 53% of firms say they expect to have more part-time and contract attorneys.

Hiring freelance lawyers enables firms to draw on a flexible and cost-effective workforce when and how they need it. It’s particularly beneficial for small firms who lack the staff to shift lawyers from one case to another during busy times (or when someone is out) and can’t afford to support full-time lawyers during slow periods when there isn’t enough work to go around.

Outsourcing to freelance lawyers can help law firms in many ways, including allowing them to take more cases, lower the cost of legal services, move toward flat fee billing, be more competitive and achieve work/life balance. The most important benefit is how it opens new opportunities for firms to expand their practice and grow revenue without making a big investment in staffing or overhead.

Benefits to Freelance Attorneys

Work/life balance and the desire for more control is driving the move to freelancing for many people. There are many advantages for individual attorneys to consider engaging in freelance lawyering. It provides the choice and flexibility to work when and how much you want and on what types of projects you want. If you are interested in being a freelance attorney, read our related post on 5 Tips to Help You Get Hired as A Freelance Attorney.

If you need help with legal work in your office or are considering becoming a freelance attorney, learn more about how LAWCLERK™ works. LAWCLERK is a legal services marketplace that connects qualified freelance lawyers and law firms needing assistance. Our secure and confidential online platform makes it easy to find an attorney with the right skill set and the right price for your matter.

Have questions? Contact us for a consultation today.

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