There are lots of different types of flexible working options available in the legal sector that allow you to work when and where you want.
When we think of flexible working most people will be thinking about the ability to work from home either part of the week or full time. But aside from this there are more options that qualified lawyers and other legal professionals can do.
Currently, employees only have the right to request flexible working after 26 weeks’ continuous service and the employer can refuse on reasonable grounds. The Flexible Working Bill will however, if enacted give workers the right to request flexible working from their first day of employment which is a significant development but one which is probably already being carried out as the job market continues to evolve.
The Remote Freelance Legal Consultant Way of Working
I work as a freelance remote legal consultant which is becoming an increasingly common way of working. There is not a lot of information around what a freelance legal consultant does and when I was looking at my options, I had by chance read a blog post about a remote legal consultant that works from Greece. If it wasn’t for me doing my research online and taking the leap to do something which is still seen as a new concept to fit in with my lifestyle, I would likely still be working in a role that I found to be too restrictive.
The terminology that is used to describe a legal professional that works in this flexible way is used interchangeably and some refer to them as ‘freelance lawyers’ however, since the SRA introduced a new requirement to register as a freelance lawyer, which is usually associated with sole practitioners this can cause some confusion.
At the time of writing this though, freelance legal consultant is being used to describe a lawyer that works in interim legal roles for the clients of an alternative legal service provider such as legal tech start-ups or an alternative service provider that places you in interim roles which can be short term or long term and with clients across a whole range of sectors, in-house and in private practice.
Alternative Legal Service Providers
You may have noticed that law firms have started opening up alternative legal service providers within their firms such as Konexo by Eversheds and Vario by Pinsent Masons. As you can see this is a growing trend and we are probably going to see it continue to evolve as lawyers move towards this way of working and as the legal sector is modernised.
The rise in alternative legal service providers could be in-house legal departments’ need for short term legal resource, the pressures to have more resource for less, and the need for more specialist legal support. As many in-house departments are part of another business function their time gets taken up with the operational, strategic decision-making side of the business and managing stakeholder relationships as well as having to constantly prove their value to the business.
How being a Freelance Legal Consultant Offers More Options
As a NQ solicitor with lots of paralegal experience in-house and some private practice, I have found that the options available to me are very wide-ranging which is contrary to popular belief, that you need to be very senior such as partner level to become a freelance legal consultant.
I always wanted to have a more flexible working arrangements and being a permanent employee can be restrictive because you can only take time off when the company permits and have to work on their terms rather than what you want. It is not just qualified lawyers that can work in this way, but paralegals can work as freelancers too. The SQE route which has allowed paralegals to record their work experience so that it counts towards their qualification as a solicitor. This has really opened up access to the profession and working as a freelancer can help you on your way to getting qualifying work experience if doing a traditional training contract is not for you.
Choosing this path can allow you more freedom to choose how many hours you want to work, where you work (no restrictions on working from another country for example) and the types of organisations you work for. The other benefit is being able to pursue other passions and interests, perhaps you have a side hustle, want to complete an educational course or prefer to have that extra time to spend with your family.
You are unlikely to receive the same benefits as a permanent employee, and there is no guarantee that you will be placed in a role throughout the whole year so if you need to have a consistent monthly income this could be a challenge.
There is no perfect path but we live in world now where there is more choice than before. Aspiring lawyers often ask me whether they can take a different route to qualification for fear of having career limiting options available to them afterwards and my answer is always not necessarily, because you have to really understand what it is that you want from your work and how you want to fit it in to your lifestyle. If there are more options now then in a few years’ time the changes we will see will have developed even further so I don’t believe there is a one size fits all anymore.