If you try to make something just to fit your uninformed view of some hypothetical market, you will fail. If you make something special and powerful and honest and true, you will succeed. — Hugh Macleod
I have this recurring midwinter fantasy of buying a snowmobile, putting it on a trailer and heading off in a southerly direction until someone asks me “what in tarnation is wrong with that jet-ski?” The short days, cold nights, monochromatic landscapes, and mountainous piles of snow of the prairie winter are no doubt to blame for these visions of salt water, warm beaches, and a law practice run from beneath the shade of palm tree. Generally, reality (that pesky need to earn an income) quickly steps in to bring me back to the normal world and awaiting Persephone’s return, but this winter, fortune has allowed me to indulge in the dream just a bit longer (seems Demeter has gotten some help with those anger issues) by providing me with a copy of Kimberly Alderman’s new book: The Freelance Lawyering Manual.
The Freelance Lawyering Manual is the fruit of Kimberly’s career as a nomadic lawyer working from the wilds of Alaska to the beaches of the Caribbean and is the first manual to cover this revolutionary type of law practice. Freelance lawyering is not contract lawyering – Freelancers are seldom found in the dark, dank cellars of big law scouring over documents printed in that ubiquitous legal font “tiny, illegible”. These are not the hourly wage earning worker bees of the big law hive. Freelancers work from their own offices on a variety of matters billing their attorney-clients directly. They are independent lawyers running a solo practice complete with all the perks, benefits, overhead, and worries that come with running a business.
For those wanting to give freelance lawyering a try, Kimberly’s book lays out the good, the bad, and the ugly of freelance lawyering (ah, the cold hash light of reality begins to dawn). While the “what every freelance lawyer should know” section is presented in a very neutral way, it is quickly apparent that this is not a field for the novice attorney – if for no other reason than it takes time to build a client base. Kimberly concentrates on those issues unique to starting a freelance practice, glossing over some of the more rudimentary issues involved in starting a solo practice (for those, see Solo by Choice). I found her comments on money matters and client communication to be particularly insightful; it appears that attorneys pay for solutions (value) and not hours worked and that they appreciate being kept “in the loop” as to a project’s status – perhaps there’s a lesson in there for those of us working with regular clients.
The Freelance Lawyering Manual also covers what hiring attorneys need to know about freelancers and the ethics of freelance lawyering. Bottom line is that it is ethical and profitable to hire freelance lawyers – you just have to do it the right way. While the section for hiring attorneys is, for the most part, common sense hiring practices, the section on ethics is a brilliant, utterly readable distillation of some of the more mind-numbingly dull ethical opinions ever produced. Kimberly does a great job in laying out what you need to know when it comes to ethical concerns regarding supervision, confidentiality, malpractice, conflict screening, and billing.
My thanks go out to Kimberly for sending me a copy of the The Freelance Lawyering Manual. It brightened a few winter days and showed me a path to that beach chair.