Advantages & Disadvantages of Becoming a Consultant Solicitor

Becoming A Consultant Solicitor

Advantages & Disadvantages of Becoming a Consultant Solicitor

If you’re a lawyer considering a move to self-employment, you might be wondering what challenges you could face along the way, and what you might stand to gain from taking the leap.

Why Step Away From Traditional Law Firms?

Before digging into the pros and cons of being a consultant, it’s important to look at why there is a trend of solicitors moving away from traditional practice.

We speak to consultants on a daily basis here at Lawhive and there are some fairly consistent reasons:

a) Lack of Flexibility

We’ve heard the horror stories of solicitors being in the office till late at night and then being chastised for turning up at 9.30 the next morning. Many law firms have strict rules around working hours, with little regard to the work being done outside of those times.

For many solicitors as they move through their career, having flexible working hours is more and more important. Whether that’s being able to work from 6am-9am when the baby sleeps, or working later in the evening and allowing their body to rest more during the day. Being prevented from working in alignment with their energy levels and lifestyle demands is something that puts many solicitors off traditional practice.

b) Time Recording

Honestly, this is the bane of most solicitors’ lives. We don’t want to do it and clients hate that we do it. Despite this, it’s still fairly common practice in traditional law firms to bill by the hour.

Because of that, firms are even less likely to be able to offer that flexible working life we talked about above. The pressure to remain seated at your desk and clocking every minute is heavy, and most firms require face time from their solicitors from 9-5 every day. If not longer!

c) Climbing the Corporate Ladder

One of our team, Sarah, used to work as a solicitor before joining Lawhive. She recalls vividly sitting at her desk one Easter Sunday, looking around at the files everywhere and thinking “is this what it was all for?”

She was salaried partner at this point and yet felt more miserable than ever. The hours were killing her and taking time away from her young family. The pressures of taking more of a management role and bringing in new business piled on top of her existing workload. And the money wasn’t making it worth it.

So many solicitors feel like Sarah did. They climb the corporate ladder only to realise they don’t like the view from the top. Realising you don’t want to be there only leads to a lack of belief in the firm’s purpose and, at worst, corporate burnout.

Or they find they can’t progress because there are only so many partnership spots available

This model can lead to a toxic culture too if firms aren’t careful. Rather than collaboration and openness, solicitors find themselves competing and focusing on their own personal investment rather than the overall success and mission of the firm.

Being a Consultant Solicitor: The Pros

1. Flexible Working Life

By far the biggest benefit to being a consultant solicitor is the fact that you can choose the hours and days that you want to work.

Working as a consultant allows you to build your day around your family and your lifestyle, not the other way around.

If you work best in the evenings, you can sleep in and start your day after a leisurely brunch. If you like to be up with the lark, your day can be wrapped up by mid-afternoon, giving you time to relax doing what you love.

2. Earning Potential

In an employed position, you’re typically capped to a salary, perhaps with a bonus for hitting billable hours.

Consultants earn a percentage of everything they bill, so the sky’s the limit and you’re only really capped by how much you choose to work. No more negotiating for pay rises.

3. Accountability

You’re only accountable to yourself as a consultant solicitor, and potentially your immediate family.

That new-found autonomy has to pay your bills, of course, but as a consultant, you won’t have people peering over your shoulder.

No more having to convince the senior partner that marketing trends are changing - if you want to try something new to bring in new business, you can!

4. Choose Your Clients

When you first get started, you may find the options are a bit more reduced, but once you build up your brand as a consultant solicitor, you will have more choice and will be able to opt for clients you enjoy working with.

5. Work From Home

Since 2020, working from our own homes has become not just commonplace, but preferred by most. No more commuting and sitting in traffic at 7am to get in on time.

The beauty of working as a consultant solicitor is that, on the whole, you can choose to operate wherever you like. If having a separate office space to get some peace is your jam, you can hire one. If you’d rather work at home and be around when the kids finish school, that works too.

Working the way that suits you leads to improved productivity and will really boost your wellbeing.

Being a Consultant Solicitor: The Cons

1. Fluctuating Income

One of the major drawbacks of being a consultant solicitor is that you won’t have a steady salary anymore. New work can fluctuate and finding steady work is a real con of freelancing. Projects can begin and then get shelved. Clients may end a contract early or you may finish a project and find it difficult to find more work.

Because of this, you can also find yourself running into cash flow issues if you’re not careful to manage expenses. Making sure clients pay on time is a big factor in this, as you can typically only invoice the umbrella firm for you fees once the client has settled theirs.

This is one problem consultants working with Lawhive don’t have - we take care of all client payments for cases that we refer, so you can relax knowing that the money is on account when it’s needed.

2. The Buck Stops Here

As a consultant, you often play every role in your business - from CEO, to marketing, to customer service, accounts and, of course, actually being a lawyer. If you’re coming out of an employed role, this can be a shock to the system and you’ll have to learn and adapt quickly.

At Lawhive, we handle the admin for you - client onboarding, file opening, compliance, client money account, invoicing, collecting payment, plus we have a dedicated customer success team. No more form filling or chasing payments - we promise this will change your life!

We'll even send you up to 30% extra work on top of your existing practice, in a feed of fully qualified, pre-paid instructions.

3. Loneliness

We often hear from consultants that working alone at home can be isolating. Even if you work within an umbrella firm, you’ll certainly have less day-to-day contact with others than when you were employed.

While this can be helpful for getting things done, making connections and having a support system in place is still hugely beneficial.

Which is why at Lawhive we go to great lengths to support our community of consultant solicitors to connect with each other regularly, as well as providing extensive back-end and customer service support. So while you may work remotely for a majority of the time, you are never on your own.

4. Lack of Benefits

Sick pay, holiday allowances and pension contributions are a thing of the past when you’re self-employed. You’ll need to make sure you make provisions to take care of these yourself, by putting money aside for the future and for months when you’ll be earning a bit less.

Conclusion

No-one can tell you if becoming a consultant solicitor is the right move for you. It depends on so many factors - your experience, income needs, your risk profile and even your values.

For those seeking more flexibility and freedom, there are ways to mitigate the risks. Making sure you have a good referral network and regular source of work is important.

Solicitors working through Lawhive earn on average £80,000 of new billables per year, whilst reducing admin costs.

💬 “Before Lawhive I had to think more about marketing myself and finding multiple sources of work. Lawhive take care of matching clients to me which means that I have more time to focus on doing what I love and allows me to avoid burning out.” Bethany Poulton, Consultant

If you’re thinking about your next steps, or are an existing consultant that is struggling with any of the downsides we’ve talked about, then get in touch as there’s a good chance we might be able to help.

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