Sally Necheles, Contract Attorney

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Sally Necheles, Contract Attorney
Working as a contract attorney has both pros and cons, just like any other attorney. Some of the pros include having a variety of work and having compensation that is tied to their hours. Some of the cons include a lower average salary compared to regular attorneys and less prestige than regular attorneys have.

Contract attorneys enjoy various benefits that regular attorneys may lack, such having a variety of work and having compensation that is tied to the number of hours they work. That being said, there are some downsides to becoming a solo practitioner, including a lower average salary and less prestige compared to regular full-time attorneys. All in all, you should weigh your options and consider becoming a contract attorney if it is the right fit for you.

1. Why did you decide to work as a contract attorney?

I prefer the research/writing side of law over the actual practice of law. I have felt this way since attending law school. It is a better fit for my abilities and personality. This is why I jumped at the chance to work for Thomson Reuters (then Lawyer's Cooperative Publishing) as a legal editor. I had to quit my job for personal reasons in 2001. When I was ready to start working again, I decided to work for Thomson on a contract basis rather than as an employee.

As a contractor, I just do legal research and writing. I am not involved in any of the administrative aspects of editorial work, and I do not need to revise other people's work. I work my own hours, I control my work load, and I work at home, all of which meet my personal needs better than would working at a firm.

2. What is the best part of working as a contract attorney?

The answer to this question is, in short, flexibility. I choose my work and I choose my hours.

3. What is the worst part of working as a contract attorney?

The worst part of working as a contract attorney is the uncertainty in terms of work flow. I am lucky, however, in that I have historically had steady work. In fact, I sometimes turn down contracts because I am too busy.

4. What advice would you give to others looking to become a contract attorney?

You have to be certain that you can work alone, maintain the quality of your work product, and always meet deadlines. You cannot be easily distracted. If you are not capable of self-motivation, you will fail as a contract writer. If you are not among the best at what you do, you will not get contracts.

I would also note that it helps to have a private area in your home that is devoted only to your work. Make sure that you set up your hours and work area as formally as necessary to maintain steady work habits. I know of some contractors who rent office space just for this reason.

5. What is a typical day like for you as a contract attorney?

I get up very early in the morning (4:00 to 5:00), make my coffee, commute over to my home office, I .e., I walk through two rooms, and begin working. I am a "morning person" and devote my best hours to my work. Because I generally work on long-term projects, I am typically in the middle of writing a long manuscript and am able to work without administrative interruptions. I work for four or five hours with some, but not many, household interruptions. When I am done working, which tends to be in the late morning, I am free to switch over to my household duties. Depending on my work load, I will work for an additional one or two hours in the late afternoon.

6. How does your experience as a contract attorney compare with your peers who chose other sorts of jobs?

I think that I enjoy my job more than most people do.

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