This past August, I finished clerking on the Federal District Court for the District of Minnesota and had my second child. Knowing that I would be recovering for several months and that I would be leaving Minnesota for Utah in the spring, I decided to forego looking for traditional law firm employment in Minnesota. Instead, I contacted several attorneys in my area and asked if they would have contract work available for the few months that I had left in Minnesota.
One attorney said yes. We entered into a very flexible arrangement. She had recently started up her own law firm after spending several years at a class-action plaintiff’s employment law firm. Because her firm was so new, she needed someone who was not a fixed cost and could do work on an as-needed basis. I became a part-time employee who did work as it came in. I also did all my work remotely. This attorney had her client files on the cloud, so I could access whatever I needed whenever I needed it, and I communicated with her via email and phone. This arrangement allowed me to bring in some income while spending substantial amounts of time with my young children.
I was very lucky to find this attorney. I did what I loved—research and writing—and I even got to take two depositions and do one oral argument. I felt like a valued member of the firm, even though I was rarely if ever in the office.
I realized while I was working for this attorney that there is a need among solo and small law firms for people who could do I what I was doing—as-needed, project-based work. When a solo or a small firm gets hit with several big motions, they need assistance so that they can produce quality, accurate work in a short timeframe. I also recognized that with the technology as it is today, working remotely is a viable option. And I appreciated the flexibility and control I had over my schedule.
While I was working for this attorney, I looked at and talked to big and medium-sized law firms in Salt Lake, anticipating that I would join one of them once I moved to Utah. But after a few months and a few bumps, I realized that I really liked what I was already doing for this attorney. And I wanted to expand it into a larger practice. I had heard of contract or freelance attorneys. In fact, a few freelance attorneys in Minnesota bound together and formed a support group for freelance attorneys called the Minnesota Freelance Attorney Network. I spoke with them about how and why they chose to freelance. One was a part-time freelancer because she had small children at home. Another transitioned from being a career judicial law clerk and found freelancing and running her own firm more fulfilling than being at a large law firm.
So I decided that when I moved to Utah, I would start up a freelance and appellate law firm (I chose appellate law because my first judicial clerkship was on the Minnesota Court of Appeals, I loved appellate law, and schedules are less hectic on the appellate level). I am in Utah now and am excited and slightly terrified about the future. But I am thrilled at the prospect of building a practice while being able to balance it with my family.