Going Independent? Avoid These 3 Common Mistakes  

Question:

I’m mostly happy at my firm, but lately I’ve been considering going independent for a number of personal and professional reasons. To make this transition a success, I’d love to know what are the most common mistakes that legal professionals make when they decide to become a legal consultant or work on a contract or project basis, and how to avoid them.
 

Answer:

Working on a contract or project basis is an excellent way for legal professionals to attain better work-life balance while still being engaged in their chosen field. To get the most out of this new chapter in your career, avoid these mistakes:  

Mistake #1: Not setting boundaries. In the excitement of this new career chapter, some consultants go overboard: being available to answer emails or calls at all hours, taking lower rates, and working nights and weekends to meet unrealistic timelines. Ultimately, they lose some of the positives that make contract work so appealing in the first place. 

Solution: Before accepting your first client, establish some ground rules for rates, payment terms, work hours, etc. and be sure to they are addressed in your work agreement or contract.  
 
Mistake #2: Mixing personal with professional. As a first-time consultant, it might be easy to sign on family and friends as your initial clients -- or use your personal social media accounts to market your fledgling business. But going down this path can get messy. 
 
Solution: Keep it separate when going independent. While you’ll need an online presence, create separate profiles for your professional persona. Rethink doing legal work for family and friends, as the awkwardness may not be worth it. Have a dedicated office space as well as separate bank accounts for business expenses and payments. 

Mistake #3: Taking on any and all projects. While it may seem as though being a generalist will result in more work, it’s important to be selective when taking on new projects. 

Solution: In an age when laws are more complex than ever, having an area of specialization is a great way to stand out in a crowded market – and it’s a good business strategy. Specializing makes it easier to brand your services; this is how boutique practices compete with large law firms. So, if you’re interested in personal injury law, for example, don’t take on trust and estates work. 

Rebranding yourself as a legal consultant is an excellent career choice for those who desire greater flexibility and have an entrepreneurial spirit. To maximize your odds of success, incorporate these best practices.