With layoffs and hiring freezes rampant in today’s legal industry, many lawyers and legal professionals are scrambling to find new jobs or trying to hold on to their current positions. The good news is that, as an experienced legal professional, you can leverage your existing skills and knowledge to launch your own part-time or full-time freelance business.
Many careers in the law lend themselves well to freelancing. A growing number of lawyers, paralegals, law clerks, law students, court reporters and others are working virtually to assist clients with a variety of legal needs.
Freelance legal secretaries (also known as virtual assistants or virtual secretaries) offer typing, data entry, word processing and digital transcription services. They may also perform e-filings, billing and scheduling functions, document management and other clerical and administrative work.
Freelance paralegals, also known as virtual paralegals or virtual legal assistants, perform computerized legal research, assist in drafting litigation and corporate transactional documents and perform electronic filings with the court. They may also perform litigation support, document management, e-discovery and contract drafting services as well as document review, indexing, proofreading and patent work.
A growing number of lawyers are leaving private practice to work on a contract basis for employment agencies, law firms and governmental agencies. While pay rates for contract work are generally lower than what a lawyer would earn in private practice, the trade-off is a better work-life balance. Contract work is also a great way for attorneys fresh out of school to gain legal experience and networking contacts. While services performed by contract attorneys vary by practice area, document review and document drafting are two services frequently performed on a contract basis.
Law students often work to support themselves during law school. They may perform freelance legal research (Westlaw and Lexis often provide passwords to law students for free research), document drafting, court filings and other legal and administrative tasks. Freelancing is a good fit for many students because they can work around their busy class and study schedules.
Freelance court reporters are generally are retained by court reporting agencies to assist at depositions, administrative hearings, board meetings, arbitrations, municipal hearings and other events in which a written record of the meeting is necessary. The nationwide court reporter shortage has increased the demand for skilled freelance court reporters.
Legal nurse consultants, also known as nurse paralegals, assist attorneys with the medical-legal aspects of a case. They analyze medical records; perform medical-related research; coordinate independent medical examinations; interpret physicians’ and nurses’ notes/ prepare medical chronologies, charts, diagrams and timelines; assist attorneys in drafting discovery requests and cross-examination questions; and serve as expert witnesses at trial.
Legal transcriptionists listen to dictated recordings made by attorneys, paralegals and other legal professionals and transcribe them into legal documents such as correspondence, pleadings, discovery and legal memoranda. Setting up a business as a legal transcriptionist involves very little in the way of equipment and start-up costs. To get started, work-from-home transcriptionists need a headset, foot pedal and transcription software as well as standard word processing and spread sheet applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel.
8. Legal Interpreters and Translators
The exploding pace of international litigation has created a need for legal interpreters (a professional who translates spoken language orally) and translators (a professional who translates written language). Legal interpreters provide translation, interpreting, proof reading, transcription, web site translation, multilingual desktop publishing and legalisation into and from all major languages. Freelance interpreters service the foreign language needs of law firms, Fortune 500 companies and government clients across the globe.