Alternative career paths for lawyers: factsheet

Think there’s only one way to be a lawyer? Think again.

We all have the stereotypical image of a lawyer – the rainmaking partner at a shiny corporate law firm or General Counsel fire-fighting the legal issues of a business.

But it is no longer a binary choice between a legal career in private practice or an in-house legal team.

The way we work has evolved and, even in the most traditional careers, alternative paths have sprung up. It’s no longer brave or controversial to do things differently.

There are so many different ways to work as a lawyer in these post pandemic times. You could become a freelancer, an interim lawyer or a legal consultant working with a platform.

But before you take the plunge, let’s look at the benefits and challenges when it comes to new routes in law.

Looking for freelance freedom?

At the end of 2019 the rules for freelance solicitors changed so they are now able to deliver legal services directly to the public. This was a major change for qualified lawyers looking to work in an alternative way.

To set up as a freelance lawyer all you need to do is notify the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority), have a letter of engagement and terms of business which tick the boxes set out by the regulator.

If you want to offer reserved legal services, you will also need three years’ post-qualification experience and ‘adequate and appropriate’ professional indemnity insurance.

As a freelancer providing reserved legal services you can’t employ staff but if you’re providing non-reserved legal services there’s no such restriction on this. Talking to other freelancers may be a good first step. You might even consider a formal or informal collaboration with other lawyers with complementary areas of expertise.

What is an interim lawyer?

Just like a supply teacher or medical locum, an interim lawyer is someone who works through an agency, in fixed-term roles, to cover gaps in legal teams or provide extra support during peaks of work.

If you like variety this might be the option for you.

The nature of the work exposes you to an enormous range and diversity of legal areas and clients. If you’re unsure about what kind of work you’d enjoy most this could be a great way to test it out.

This kind of work tends to be focused purely on set projects or specific matters, so your work is streamlined and direct. The big focus on delivery means your relationship with work is much simpler – less time doing the woolly admin and having to tick boxes and more time getting stuck into the work!

If you’re looking for a more flexible lifestyle – this is clearly one of the biggest perks of both freelance and interim lawyer work.

You can choose what projects you work on and when and when you don’t!

Of course, the flip side of this is you may need to take what is being offered if there’s not much else around, but luckily the demand for lawyers is still pretty high.

Imagine – you could take a break in between interim roles to travel or do something completely different!

Maybe you could be a nomadic worker from far flung corners of the world, combining a spot of legal work with a morning at the beach…

Where do platforms come in?

As a freelance or interim solicitor, you are competing with big firms and of course all the other freelance or interim experts – some who may have been around for longer and built up more relationships.

Working with an established platform helps you stay independent but also have the support of the platform behind you and the security this brings.

There’s a huge amount to think about when you strike out on your own – from client development to keeping up with changes in the law to efficient billing. However, it’s possible to be entrepreneurial and independent but still part of something bigger when you work with Arbor Law.