back to Screen-Friendly page

Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

What You Need to Know About Contract Attorneys


By Eliza M. Rodrigues, Special Ethics and Conflicts Counsel Sedgwick LLP


BASF’s Law Practice Management Section recently presented a CLE program titled “All You Need to
Know About Contract Attorneys: Freelance Lawyers and the Firms that Hire Them.”

The panel participants were Marina Modlin, Principal of Modlin Legal and author of The Independence Track: How to Succeed as a Freelance Attorney and myself as chair of the Law Practice Management Section and Special Ethics & Conflicts Counsel with Sedgwick LLP. The presentation was attended by freelance lawyers, those seeking to start up a freelance practice, and those seeking to hire freelance lawyers.

The panel discussed how-to set up a freelance practice, marketing and creating your own brand through social media, job opportunities, and ethical considerations such as conflicts of interest. For the solo practitioners, firms and corporate legal departments seeking to hire freelance lawyers, some of the benefits discussed were: reduction in costs to your clients or in-house legal department, reduction in write-offs and re-work, and an opportunity to observe work product before making the hire permanent. It was strongly suggested that the parties enter into a written and mutually-executed contract, which includes a description of the assignment, completion date, fees, malpractice insurance, and conflicts of interest (also addressing simultaneous freelancing assignments or hybrid practices), to name a few terms.

The importance of evaluating conflicts of interest, along with adequate oversight and supervision of the freelance lawyer, were emphasized along with other ethical considerations such as restricting or prohibiting use of firm office space, email, phone and fax numbers, business cards, firm intranet and access to other clients’ physical or electronic files.

With the current state of the legal market, technological innovations, increased demand for a healthy work/life balance, and the departure from billable hours towards flat fees, freelancing continues to be an attractive option. Following the presentation, attendees participated in 30 minutes of “flash networking” and the exchange of business cards.


Eliza Rodrigues is chair of BASF’s Law Practice Management Section. At Sedgwick she works with the General Counsel and Conflicts Committee in making risk, ethics, and business conflict evaluations, and overseeing the firm’s new business intake and conflicts procedures.

Our partners at BASFAhern Insurance Brokerage