Leaving the firm for some flexibility – becoming a legal contractor

1st August 2016

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If you think of the path of a lawyer as being very linear – strive to be a star student at a top law school so you can be snapped up by a renowned firm and eventually be made a partner – you’re not wrong. 

Law is still more of a traditional industry than most, but as demand for contractors increases, so do the opportunities for lawyers looking for more flexibility in their careers. 

Ed Bardos is an experienced lawyer who has held various contract roles. He’s now a non-executive director of iContract, and hopes to see more legal experts make the transition from salaried employee to contractor. 

According to Ed there’s “never been a better time” for lawyers to move into contracting. Whilst there’s still plenty of work to go around, many companies don’t have the budget to hire full-time, in-house legal staff and don’t want the headcount on their books. 

In addition many large banks and corporates face big projects in various areas and it’s better and easier for them to hire contractors, as they require.

Demand for lawyers is expected to continue to increase, and Ed also predicts they will become one of the main beneficiaries of Brexit

Law firms and companies will need to hire legal experts to help them figure out the impact of any changes on existing contracts, as well as to react to new legislation and trade arrangements. 

This might not sound like your niche, but Ed urges prospective contractors to be open to applying for roles that are slightly different to what they were doing previously. 

“Lawyers are paid just as much for their legal judgement, or the way they think,” he explains. “Don’t feel limited by the area you have been working or current skills.” 

Short-term contract roles can be great stepping-stones to the area you really want to work in. 

Yes, leaving the firm to go out on your own might compromise your path to partnership, but the benefits should more than compensate: More money for every hour you work, the ability to pick and choose your work and clients more, and a more flexible work/life balance. 

Sound good? Here are Ed’s three top tips to help you succeed. 

1. Keep up to date 

Contractors need to know what’s happening in their industry. Sign up for newsletters and webinars from all the top law firms and legal recruiters, and make sure you regularly dip into the major news outlets that cover legal matters in your area. 

2. Keep active 

Many contractors get the bulk of their work through former clients or colleagues. Keep your name top of mind by scheduling regular catch-ups, and dropping the odd phone call or email. 

It’s also in your best interest to become an active participant in industry conversations on the social media networks your clients follow, such as Linkedin. 

3. Be flexible 

Don’t allow yourself to be pigeonholed by previous roles. Lawyers have lots of transferrable skills, so be flexible about the contract roles you apply for.

iContract launches in September, so make sure you pre-register now to get first access to new roles and contracting information. 

We also have a wide range of guides to help you get started in contracting, so be sure to download our contractor resources.