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?
My contract in-house ran for 1 year and was extended for another year. Their policy is that no one can work in any department under contract for more than 2 years. After 2 years I was timed-out. I am now working as a contract attorney for a small firm. I don't believe that I actively decided to become a contract attorney
, but this was an option available to me after my office at the firm was closed for financial reasons.
2. What is the best part of working as a contract attorney?
I get to set my own hours. In the Bay Area, traffic can be quite awful during rush hour. As a contract attorney, I am able to arrive early and leave early in order to miss peak traffic. Or I can stay late if I want. I also have the ability to work from home at times. I am also free, at this point, to work as many hours as I choose. My income is based on the number of hours I bill.
3. What is the worst part of working as a contract attorney?
There is no stability, no overtime, no benefits. You never know when your last day will be. Benefits are costly and hard to obtain as an individual. It is also difficult to plan vacations when you don't know what your schedule is going to be. Also, I have to file taxes quarterly.
4. What advice would you give to others looking to become a contract attorney?
If you like the freedom to make your own hours and work the times you choose, it is a nice change from working in-house or for a firm. There is also a lot less stress.
However, if you are looking for a stable income and benefits, this is not the path to choose. You have to decide whether you want stability or freedom. I think a lot of contract attorneys would choose the stability of a full time job if it were available. I know only a few contract attorneys who are doing it by choice.
5. What is a typical day like for you as a contract attorney?
There really is no typical day. Assignments can change instantly. Deadlines for projects can come up suddenly. You have to be able to drop what you're doing and pick up another task and move on. You also have to be organized enough to be able to return to your other tasks and minimize any confusion as to where you are in the project and what you've already completed. Generally though, you are given one task that you complete before you are given another.
6. How does your experience as a contract attorney compare with your peers who chose other sorts of jobs?
I have a lot more freedom than my peers who are working for the government or in firms, but they have benefits and retirement.
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