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    Monday
    Apr092012

    When Should I Ask For Freelance Work? 

    A few days ago, one of my readers emailed me the following question:

    “I've recently met lawyers at networking events, and asked to help them with their overflow work, including research and writing, and I almost always receive a negative response.  Why do you think that is?”

    Although there are can be many reasons, I suspect one of the main ones is that she starts offering too early, or communicates to them that she "needs" work. Nobody really likes to be asked for anything, especially by strangers. (It's like in dating - they'll want you if you show them you don't need them....)

    “How long do you think I should wait before offering to handle their overflow work? After the first networking event, I may not see them again, or I may see them once or twice more at other networking events,” continued the reader.

    That is true – many attorneys you meet at networking events, you will never see again, or will not see until the next networking event. However, think of networking events not as a place where the actual relationships develop, but as a place for everyone to come, and find people whom they'd like to get to know better. Again, a dating analogy – you don’t go to a dating website to have relationships, but to find people you want to take on a first date. 

    Thus, your goal at the networking events should be to find as many people with whom you want to form relationships, and invite them out to get to know them better elsewhere, and one on one. After all, the best way to get freelance law work is being friends and colleagues with the people you want to work for.

    At your one-on-one meeting, your primary goal should be to get to know them. Don’t be afraid to talk about something other than their law practice, or your freelancing – the most memorable conversations have nothing to do with the office. But, make sure to occasionally return the conversation back to the office – because before the meeting is over, you’ll need to mention your skills, and what a great friendly competent passionate etc person you are. Here, you have to make sure they understand that you are ready and wiling to work – without asking them if they'd give you any. (I'll write about how to do that next week.)

    As the relationship develops, they'll want to help you without you asking for help. Listening to you, they will think back to their own practice, skimming their brain for any work that they can hand over to you, to help you out. 

    So, in summary: use networking events to meet lawyers. Invite them elsewhere to get to know them better. In the process, communicate your availability to work generally, and wait for them to offer you work.

    Don’t forget: once they mention that they might have some freelance work for you – you must use your excellent follow up skills to not let the opportunity slip away!

     

    Thursday
    Mar222012

    Should You Invest In a Malpractice Policy?

    In my seminars, people always ask me about malpractice insurance. I say it’s a must – and don’t allow any contractors into my own office until they are insured.

    Let’s talk about the benefits of insurance. First, you get the peace of mind that you are prepared for something that will most likely happen sooner or later, and will certainly be expensive. Second, your state bar may actually require you to be insured, so check their rules. Finally, your own insurance is another selling point for hiring you - it communicates to your prospective attorney-client that you take risk seriously, and you feel responsible for mitigating it.

    So, I believe that every freelancer should have his or her own policy. Yet, this is the most frequently sited objection: “But my attorney-clients will have insurance that covers independent contractors that work for her firm.” In reality – that may or may not be true.

    Insurance products are complicated, numerous, and the only thing you can assume about all of them at once is that they are not free. Take Lawyer’s Mutual Strong Start policy. It explicitly does NOT cover any other attorneys (employees or independent contractor) besides the insured attorney. How do I know? I read my policy.

    What does that mean? Well, it means that you’ll be happily practicing law for a month, or a year, or ten years, until you get sued. And once you get sued, your panicking attorney client will call her insurance company, only to learn that you’re not covered.

    The only way to avoid that disaster, should you chose to rely on your attorney client’s policy, is to read it and call the insurance company to verify that you are indeed covered (and do this with every firm you contract for – one firm’s policy will NOT cover your contract work at another firm). When you call, make sure to find out exactly what roles of yours will be covered. For example, the existing policy may cover you as a contractor, but not as an employee. When six months later you’ll be offered that full time job, you won’t think about insurance because “you’re already past that,” but your changed status with the firm will have put you in violation of the agreement.

    The easier way, in my opinion, is to invest in your own policy, guaranteed to cover any and all of your activity as a lawyer. I myself am a longtime client of Lawyer’s Mutual, and have found them to be flexible, easy to apply for, and affordable. Their Strong Start policy provides all the coverage you’ll need as a contractor, or as a solo practitioner, starts at $50 a month, and is available to attorneys who have been practicing for less than three years. You have to be a new attorney to qualify, but you never get kicked out. Your premiums will go up every year, but will be capped at a very reasonable level.

    I imagine that LMIC’s "Independent Contractor policy" is an affordable option for more experienced attorneys.

    In short, affordable policies exist and are a wise investment – you don’t want to be refinancing your house to cover your defense.   

    Wednesday
    Nov232011

    Timeless Job Application Wisdom

    Right now, I'm reading Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich." This book, first published in 1937, has been included on bestseller lists for 50+ years, and is frequently referred to as "the original self-help book." The way I see it, if something has been this popular for this long, it's got to be onto something, right?

    Right. So, I just came across the section where Mr. Hill talks about what to include in your job application materials. While much of his advice is very sound and still relevant, one particular thing jumped out as horribly out of date: including a photograph with your application materials. Photograph on a job application!

    When I read that, my first thought was, it's a good idea - faces are more personal than resumes, and since nobody does this anymore, your application would immediately stand out. 

    My next thought was, "I wonder why we've stopped including pictures with resume materials?" The immediate answer that came to my mind: employment discrimination litigation. I bet we stopped submitting photographs when employers started getting sued for discrimination!

    But then, even if I'm right and this trend did in fact go away because of litigation, what has social media done? Nowadays, job applicants are encouraged to create and maintain "an online presence" - because potential employers will screen it before interviewing or hiring. All of us are "google-able" - and many people probably check out people’s photographs before ever meeting them in person, or inviting them to a first in-person interview.

    So, putting it all together, maybe Mr. Hill's advice is, as usual, sound, and we are already including our pictures with our application materials. Except, we are using a different medium, one that Mr. Hill couldn't imagine during his time. So, maybe, it's actually a good idea to attach an actual picture to your resume, sparing potential employers the trouble of going to look for it online, and making your application stand out from thousands of your competitors? What do you think?