Best Virtual Law Firms for Freelance Solicitors UKIn today’s rapidly evolving legal services market, there is a growing number of lawyers who are choosing not to be confined to employment with one standard, traditional law firm, but instead to be self-employed. There were around 1,000 such freelance lawyers in the UK as at 2018 and it has been predicted that by 2026 one-third of solicitors will work as independent freelance lawyers). These lawyers are practising under the umbrella of a ‘virtual’ or ‘dispersed’ law firm, with all the flexibility, freedom and financial rewards that go with it. The businesses providing such an offering usually provide the following for the freelance lawyers who choose to work at them:-

With fewer overheads than the traditional law firm, this arrangement allows for tailored legal services to be provided to clients at competitive prices.

Notably, the term ‘virtual’ is slightly misleading as many law firms across the UK are now effectively operating virtually to some extent. With the benefits of modern Internet technology, today’s modern lawyer can really work virtually from anywhere – hence the preference for the term ‘dispersed’ law firms (as some law tech commentators such as Delia Venables have pointed out – see Delia’s article from a few years ago here: ‘The Dispersed Law Firm’ in the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers here).

Some of the Top Virtual / Dispersed Law Firms in the UK

The following are some of the best such ‘virtual’ / dispersed law firms in the UK, based on reviews, reputation, ratings and more:-

Scott-Moncrieff (‘ScoMo’) “Scott-Moncrieff was one of the world’s first ‘virtual law firms’, giving lawyers the freedom to practise when and as they want, with the ability to maintain or improve their earning power.”; “Scott-Moncrieff freelance lawyers keep a full 70% of what they bill from the outset.”

Keystone “A cutting-edge firm that combines the latest technology with modern working practices, Keystone competes with some of the country’s leading conventional law firms.”

gunnercooke “We’ve taken away lots of the constraints that prevent lawyers from giving a brilliant client service and we’ve replaced them with a model that attracts the best legal talent to join us, giving them the freedom to invest fully into their client relationships.”

Setfords Solicitors “Our innovative and creative ways of operating mean our lawyers have the support and flexibility to deliver the dedicated, personal service our clients need at a price they can afford.”

What are the benefits of being a freelance lawyer in the UK?

Freelancer lawyers are those who operate on a project-by-project basis rather than being engaged by a particular law firm or organisation. They are also referred to as contract lawyers or independent legal professionals. Being an independent lawyer has various advantages:

  1. Flexibility: Being able to choose your own assignments and schedule is one of the main benefits of working as a freelance lawyer. You’ll be able to manage your workload and work-life balance better as a result.
  2. Variety: Freelance lawyers / solicitors frequently have the chance to work on a diverse range of cases and projects, which may keep things exciting and challenging.
  3. Independence: Working as a freelance lawyer gives you the freedom to choose how you want to work and the kinds of cases you want to take on.
  4. Greater income potential: Freelance lawyers frequently have more negotiating power and the freedom to set their own charges. When compared to taking a salaried job in a law firm, this may result in larger earning potential. Especially if you can take home 70% or more of your legal fees generated which some of the virtual law firms above can afford you.
  5. Professional growth: Working with a variety of customers and legal professionals can allow freelance lawyers to broaden their knowledge and abilities.

In general, working as a freelance lawyer can provide a lot of independence and flexibility, as well as the chance to have a fruitful and fulfilling career.

And what are the disadvantages of being a freelance solicitor?

Being a freelancer lawyer can be a challenging yet fulfilling career choice. However, there are a few potential negatives to take into account:

  1. Lack of job security: Working for yourself means you lack the consistency of a salaried employment with a law firm. To keep your income stable, you’ll need to look for new clients and jobs all the time.
  2. Restricted benefits: Since you work for yourself, you won’t be able to take advantage of benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off that are frequently offered by legal firms.
  3. Admin work: As a self-employed lawyer , you will be in charge of managing all business-related administrative duties like marketing, billing, and bookkeeping. Unless you work under the umbrella of a virtual law firm such as those mentioned above.
  4. Lack of support: When you work by yourself, you may lack the assistance of a law firm or colleagues with whom to split the workload or bounce ideas. Self-motivation and the capacity for independent work are requirements.
  5. Professional liability: You run the danger of being held personally accountable for any mistakes you make as a self-employed lawyer.

Overall, while working for oneself as a lawyer might provide a lot of independence and flexibility, it also calls for a lot of self-discipline and motivation. Before opting to pursue a career as a self-employed lawyer, it is crucial to thoroughly weigh the disadvantages. Again, being part of a virtual law firm can greatly reduce the disadvantages.

Further Reading on Virtual / Dispersed Law Firms in the UK

The following articles provide useful insights into the benefits of such firms:-

The rise of the virtual lawyer: Why virtual law firms are replacing traditional practices via Wolters Kluwer, 2018

“In conclusion, building a virtual firm in the cloud is a great alternative to a more traditional firm thanks to reduced overhead costs, increased agility, mobility, flexibility and time – enabling lawyers to run a more competitive firm and deliver quality service that meets client demands.”

The benefits of virtual law firms – from ScoMo’s Lucy Scott-Moncrieff

““It’s important for people to have the flexibility to lead their life outside work, whether that’s spending time with family or pursuing worthwhile causes.” Scomo’s rising success over the past decade is indicative of the rise of virtual firms – and representative, perhaps, of legal’s move into a more nomadic future.”

The virtual law firm three years on – Internet Newsletter for Lawyers by Chris Hadrill of Redmans Solicitors, 2017.

“Redmans has undergone a steep learning curve in the adaptation to the virtual law firm business model but it has grown and strengthened, having cemented the business in various key locations and expanded to compete in other locations.”

Law firms of the future—virtual lawyers By Ioan Marc Jones via LexisNexis Future of Law, 2017.

“According to new research, there are now over 800 lawyers working for ‘virtual’ law firms in the UK. Advances in technology has paved the way for so-called ‘virtual lawyers’, a group of self-employed lawyers harnessing remote IT access and flexible working hours to provide competitive fee arrangements to clients. We speak to a range of legal experts about the advent of the ‘virtual lawyer’ and what impact this might have on the legal market.”

The rise of virtual and dispersed law firms By Matthew Johns of CenturyLink, 2017.

“As many of the magic circle firms continue to expand and “big law” gets even bigger, high street firms are struggling in an increasingly competitive market, pincered between virtual and dispersed firms which can offer lower prices due to fewer overheads, and the digital disruptors of the DIY legal technology market.”

How To: run a ‘virtual firm’ – Law Society Gazette by Guy Setford, 2013.

“In truth, many aspects of the conventional law firm are absent in the dispersed firm, but then that is the whole idea. A dispersed law firm uses technology and modern working practices to drive efficiencies and reduce overheads, while ensuring that all the positive elements of a conventional law firm remain firmly in place.”

If you have any insights you’d like to share regarding virtual / dispersed legal practices in the UK please do get in touch here. You can also see our new article about online reviews providers for solicitors in the UK here and see our guide on some of the best legal recruitment agencies if you’re needing help hiring great lawyers for your firm.