Top 5 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Hiring a Freelance Attorney

By: Meghan Dohoney, Freelance Attorney

#5: When invoicing my client, can I add a surcharge to your freelance legal service fees?

                Yes! In California, hiring attorneys can actually make money by outsourcing work to freelance attorneys. The rules of professional conduct allow attorneys to bill their clients for outsourced legal services in one of two ways. The first way is as an expense. (See ABA Formal Ethics Opinion 00-420.) The second way is as a legal service. (Id.)

If my clients bill my freelancing services as a legal service, they are allowed to add a reasonable markup. (See ABA Formal Opinions 08-451 and 00-420.) Such a fee arrangement is ethical under the California rules as long as the fee is not unconscionable (see California Rule of Professional Responsibility 4-200) and the hiring attorney satisfies the requirements of California Business and Profession code §§6147-6148 and 6068(m).

#4: Is freelancing just something you are doing in between jobs?

                No, freelancing is my full-time, long-term profession. I chose to become a freelancer for a litany of reasons. Chiefly, I love to write and perform legal analysis but did not want to work 100-hour weeks at a traditional firm. Also, my husband is a Naval Aviator so it is likely that we will move frequently over the course of our careers. I wanted to build a practice where I could work remotely and continue working no matter where we move. I love the flexibility that a freelance practice provides – I can work from anywhere, I am able to perform the legal research and writing that I love to do, and my practice is Navy-proof!

#3: What is the difference between a freelance attorney and a contract attorney?

A contract attorney is typically someone who is in between jobs and looking for short term gigs to pay the bills. A freelance attorney is typically someone who has made a career out of performing legal work on a project-by project basis. Contract attorneys typically focus more on document review, whereas freelance attorneys perform substantive legal work (writing motions, drafting pleadings, etc.).

#2: What do you need from me in order to start a freelance project?

First, I will need to know the names of the parties and nature of the case (to conflict check).  Once I confirm that I have no conflicts, all I need are the relevant case documents.  I work remotely and have my own legal research subscription, so once I receive the relevant documents I am ready to roll.

#1: How frequently will you communicate with me while working on my project?

                The frequency of our communication depends on what you, the client, prefers. Typically we will start off by chatting on the phone to discuss the specifics of the case. Then, I will take the project and run with it and contact you if I run into any issues. While I am working on the project, I can check in with you after a certain number of hours, send you my progress in sections, or update you on a predetermined basis. I am happy to communicate as frequently or infrequently as you like.



  • Standard rate: $120/hour
  • Rush rate (due in 5 business days or less): $145/hour