The majority of law firms today work on a very simple business model; solicitors and lawyers are employed by a law firm, or they work as in-house legal counsel within an organisation, and they're considered employees much like any other job. This has been the standard model for a long time because there have been no alternatives to consider.

But recently, more and more lawyers and solicitors are starting to realise that options such as freelancing do exist and are completely viable thanks to modern advances in technology, but also changes to working practices for lawyers and solicitors.

Why is the number of freelance lawyers rising?

Freelance lawyer, consultant solicitor, or legal consultant - these are all similar terms that essentially mean the same thing. If you're a legal specialist that isn't directly employed by a particular firm, then there's a good chance that you're working freelance and have the freedom to work with whomever you want, whenever you want. This is arguably one of the biggest advantages of working freelance; the added flexibility and freedom to manage your working day. 

But the reason for freelance consultant solicitors increasing isn't just because of the advantages it offers the legal specialist. Clients value the direct access to their lawyer, rather than their work going to a more junior team member, as well as the ability to negotiate their legal fees direct with the lawyer and the overall perceived fairer value of those fees as the lawyer's costs are not taken up by expensive overheads. 

The idea of becoming self-employed and self-sufficient is also much more popular these days. Having more control over your working life gives the flexibility and freedom to balance your lifestyle and the time to pursue other goals in life. 

With so many benefits to becoming a consultant solicitor, it's not surprising that a third of lawyers are expected to be working this way within the next five years. 

Differences between salaried and freelance lawyers and solicitors

It's important to distinguish what the main differences between these positions are.

For starters, lawyers and solicitors that work freelance are often still related or associated with law firms. This is usually to work securely within a regulated environment and to secure essential PI insurance and access to case management and finance systems, but they are not given a salary by the law firm itself. The deal between the law firm and the freelance lawyer or solicitor is usually based on a fee share arrangement whereby the lawyer pays the law firm a percentage of the fees they receive which covers the support services and systems they access through the law firm. 

Consultant lawyers can decide which clients they want to work for and set their own fee structures direct with the client, which often means they are more invested in developing the client relationship for a long-term partnership. 

Are there downsides to becoming a freelance legal consultant?

There's no doubt that becoming a freelance legal consultant is appealing. However, it can be daunting, especially if you don't have much experience working as self-employed, or are not confident bringing in new business. 

It requires a serious amount of discipline as you'll be responsible for every single action that you take. Your reputation is on the line as a freelance legal consultant and every job you complete needs to leave a positive mark on your record. As you build this portfolio, you'll gain a greater standing which can help you secure more clients to work with.

Regardless of their industry, freelancers can struggle to find a sense of belonging and a consistent and regular income. However, working with law groups such as Excello who have significant experience of supporting lawyers to transition to become consultants, lawyers can also benefit from a collaborative network of like-minded individuals.  By providing a dynamic and independent environment for experienced lawyers, this new-model platform can provide bespoke services to help connect legal consultants and support their marketing and business development activities.

In short, it provides legal consultants with similar services that they'd expect when working directly for a law firm. However, the difference is that they retain much more control over how they work and who they work for, giving them flexibility but less risk when becoming self-employed.

Career progression as a legal consultant

Any form of self-employment requires you to be able to offer a certain level of expertise and experience. This is what helps market your services. Unfortunately, doing so without having good connections, a client following or previous experience working for a well known firm can be challenging. 

It's also important to think about career progression. Many consultants have reached partner-level in more traditional firms and are not looking to stay on the promotion trail, but for others who want to follow a more traditional hierarchy stepladder, those opportunities are not available as a consultant.  Your growth and financial reward depends entirely on your success at the delivery of what you promised, bringing in new business and a focus on customer service. 

Being a freelance lawyer may be something you're interested in, but you need to understand that there are risks and challenges along the way. However, for many there are also significant opportunities. 


While 2022 predicts an increase in legal consultants, it's important to remember that there are considerations to keep in mind before you commit to a new chapter in the way you work. It certainly offers more freedom and flexibility, but it can also demand more self-motivation and discipline. You may need to step outside your comfort zone if you want to fully reap the benefits.