This guide raises meaningful questions about the risks and rewards of freelance legal work. Employers continue to expand their remote workforces, some offering up to 70% of office employees a virtual option. While the legal industry has yet to fully realize the impact of the shift to remote work, it will surely define the practice moving forward.
Why corporate attorneys exit Big Law
Corporate attorneys in the Big Law world accept long work hours as part of their career paths, but the time requirements of a Big Law career can make it challenging to focus on (and achieve) goals outside of work. In the end, some attorneys have to choose between staying with their corporate legal careers or leaving to pursue other goals or life events. Many of them find that remote law jobs are the solution.
The simple truth is that the long work days and high billable hour requirements in traditional practice have caused talented attorneys to leave the legal profession. But the rise of flexible work arrangements via alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) means the legal profession no longer has to lose some of its brightest minds—only that some of those legal minds may realistically choose not to work such long hours.
Why do corporate attorneys leave Big Law careers?
Attorneys step away from legal careers at Big Law firms for a variety of reasons. In some cases, the reason may be to pursue an important personal goal. But in other cases, attorneys leave Big Law careers due to life events that may or may not fall within their control:
Pursuing a career change
No profession is immune to turnover caused by employees’ desire to pursue a new calling. In the legal field, one survey found that up to one-third of lawyers consider leaving the profession to find their way in a new industry. Simultaneously, “side hustles” have risen in popularity. Some attorneys leave Big Law because succeeding at a side hustle isn’t possible while working so many hours—working at a traditional law firm doesn’t leave much time to explore a new field or line of work on the side. Ultimately, corporate attorneys have to decide if they want to continue their commitment to working long hours on complex matters or if they want to pursue a path that offers more flexibility.
Starting a family
Parenthood is a life-changing decision that forces people to juggle multiple priorities. But in Big Law, attorneys must be always on, making it difficult to dial back a work schedule. Transitioning to a part-time legal position doesn’t always feel like a viable alternative for many lawyers preparing to be parents. While some Big Law firms offer part-time policies, one-third of attorneys who work at these organizations have not taken advantage of part-time work opportunities for a variety reasons, including concern about the feasibility of practicing a demanding type of law in a part-time context.
Relocating outside of a major city
Big Law jobs are primarily concentrated in major cities. If an attorney starts their career at a Big Law firm in a big city, but then decides to move to a rural or suburban area, they have to leave their firm and forego working with high-caliber clients since these firms aren’t likely to offer remote legal jobs. But there are a variety of life changes that draw professionals to less urban locations. Whether it’s raising a family, moving closer to loved ones, moving for a spouse’s career or just a lifestyle preference, legal professionals value location independence.
Caring for themselves or a loved one
An attorney may become ill and need time away from work to recover, or may experience a loved one falling ill and need to take leave to care for them. Either of these scenarios could involve temporary relocation in order to seek treatment or be with an ill family member in another city or state. But coming back to the office from an extended leave and returning to a normal work pace can be challenging. Attorneys have to ramp up their billable hours and advocate to work on upcoming projects. Some attorneys decide to leave rather than go through the process of reintegrating themselves into the life of the firm.
What are the new opportunities for flexible corporate law work?
Imagine if there was a way for talented attorneys to practice corporate law with world-class clients and still achieve true flexibility. Attorneys desiring to continue practicing at a high level while also pursuing other passions or needing to practice remotely would enjoy access to the best of both worlds. The good news is that this opportunity already exists.
At Ontra, we offer corporate attorneys with Big Law experience the opportunity to set their own hours and choose their homebase. As a result, our attorneys have accomplished some pretty spectacular goals on the side, while being engaged and motivated to provide exceptional service and legal work to Fortune 500 clients.
From writing children’s books to working with Cirque du Soleil to starting a family, Ontra has seen how top-notch corporate lawyers benefit from remote law jobs and the flexibility they offer. The benefits are also realized by clients, who receive expert-quality work from highly experienced attorneys specializing in the routine legal documents they need to be negotiated.
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