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Aspiring freelancers warned to think before they quit

17 July 2019

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Solicitors interested in pursuing freelance careers under forthcoming changes to Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) rules have been advised to pause for thought before quitting their day job.

Freelance solicitors, known as ‘independent solicitors’ by the SRA, will differ from lawyers in dispersed firms because they market their legal services directly to the public, under their own name, and differ from sole traders because they are not operating as a regulated entity.

Bennett Briegal partner Paul Bennett told a Law Society podcast earlier this month that he has seen “huge amounts of interest” among lawyers in becoming freelance solicitors under the new rules.

However, he warned that although the regulations are due to change on 25 November this year, there is a possibility of delays to introducing the freelance aspect of the rule changes.

“If you’ve got a six-month notice period with your current partnership or employer, you probably don’t want to be giving notice until you’re certain that the rules are coming in”, he said.

Warning those considering the change to “think about your appetite for risk”, Briegal urged aspiring freelancers to think about what areas of law they would cover and whether they had adequate insurance.

He also recommended that freelancers draw up a business plan for at least the first six months of the venture, and to “brainstorm” what the professional and financial issues might be in their personal circumstances.

On the positive side, he pointed to management consultants, sole traders and barristers who are able to run successful businesses on a similar model. “They are not insurmountable models, what they are is different challenges”, he said.

“People often talk about freelance solicitors as the Wild West and unregulated. That isn’t true. You’ve got the individual code of conduct.

“What I will be saying to every potential freelance solicitor is that the SRA Principles and the individual code amount to 10 pages.

“You can, as a highly educated professional holding yourself out for a decent hourly rate, make those documents your best friend and you’ll be in a better place than anyone foolish enough not to.”

Briegal also highlighted the associated risk for law firms when the new SRA Standards and Regulations are introduced later this year. He suggested firms train their staff about freelance solicitors and the move to enabling solicitors to practise from unregulated firms.

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