Jump to content

Any lawyers here balance two careers or practice only on the side?


LawAspirant
 Share

Recommended Posts

LawAspirant
  • Articling Student

Is there anything that could stop a lawyer from pursuing a different career which pays more money during the day, but then take on a few cases here and there that appeal to them? Does everyone who practices law in Ontario have to be someone who does it full time as their main profession? I am not going to get into the other career prospect because its not necessary for my question- but the point is that I am having this fantasy where I work that other job which is 9-5, and then just take on a small amount of legal clients (mostly family law) that I can give a lot of attention to at night. Is this ridiculous? Are there too many urgent matters which might arise in a family law proceeding where I couldn't manage it after 5pm? Am i being completely ridiculous? 

 

Edit- The reason I am fantasizing about this is because the day job is a very technical profession where I can just collect a nice salary, a nice pension, and go home at 5pm. I dont have to deal with the chaos of trying to make a living as a lawyer. I want to practice family law because I had my own issues growing up which I had to resolve  through years of introspection, therapy and studying and which has made me an empathetic person. I think I could help a lot of people throug hthat really hard time. However I am unsure about my ability to make a lot of money in family law or if I even want to be someone who make s alot of money breaking people apart. Perhaps if family becomes more collaborative like certain areas of the states but for now as it remains adversasrial it is tricky. Anyways I digress, but I wanted to give you an understanding of my thinking. 

Edited by LawAspirant
Link to comment
Share on other sites

realpseudonym
  • Lawyer
46 minutes ago, LawAspirant said:

I am not going to get into the other career prospect because its not necessary for my question- but the point is that I am having this fantasy where I work that other job which is 9-5, and then just take on a small amount of legal clients (mostly family law) that I can give a lot of attention to at night. Is this ridiculous? Are there too many urgent matters which might arise in a family law proceeding where I could manage it after 5pm? Am i being completely ridiculous? 

I'm not a family lawyer, so I’ll leave that aspect to others. And I know that some lawyers have very part-time practices. But it makes little sense to me.

Financially and administratively, it's doable. But I wouldn't want to do it. You have to maintain insurance, pay LSO fees, and pay some level of office overhead. You can get office overhead pretty low, if you just rent a mailing address at another firm or in chambers and operate without staff. But it's still something. You'll have to keep financial and practice management records. You're still just as liable for every file as a full-time lawyer. Practicing is a pain. At scale, that pain can be quite worthwhile, financially and otherwise. But I wouldn't want to do it, if I was only going to practice for a few hours a week.

It's also a lot of work to become and remain truly competent. I wasn't that useful on my own when I first got called. I needed (and still need) a lot of mentorship and guidance to avoid screwing up. To be better than that -- to actually be a net positive contributor on your files -- it takes thousands of hours to build-up skill and experience. In your fantasy, you don't sound particularly willing to put in that time and energy. You should be. Vulnerable family clients deserve counsel willing to make the necessary commitment. If you're not committed to the craft of law and advocacy, you're not really going to help anyone much. If you're not helping others and you're probably not making much money, I wonder why you would do this at all. 

 

Edited by realpseudonym
  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lawstudents20202020
  • Lawyer

Family law is hard to do part time because family law issues don't happen on a part time schedule. Litigation really won't be compatible with another job because court happens during regular business hours. 

 

I do know a family lawyer who does unbundled services part time and that makes sense as an end of career gig. You really want a solid foundation in the practice area before you go that route. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you were doing solicitor work (eg. helping people incorporate, some IP stuff, corporate filings) it is probably doable. In areas involving litigation it would be pretty tough to balance with a full-time job because mediations and court appearances all happen during normal business hours.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

LawAspirant
  • Articling Student
37 minutes ago, realpseudonym said:

I'm not a family lawyer, so I’ll leave that aspect to others. And I know that some lawyers have very part-time practices. But it makes little sense to me.

Financially and administratively, it's doable. But I wouldn't want to do it. You have to maintain insurance, pay LSO fees, and pay some level of office overhead. You can get office overhead pretty low, if you just rent a mailing address at another firm or in chambers and operate without staff. But it's still something. You'll have to keep financial and practice management records. You're still just as liable for every file as a full-time lawyer. Practicing is a pain. At scale, that pain can be quite worthwhile, financially and otherwise. But I wouldn't want to do it, if I was only going to practice for a few hours a week.

It's also a lot of work to become and remain truly competent. I wasn't that useful on my own when I first got called. I needed (and still need) a lot of mentorship and guidance to avoid screwing up. To be better than that -- to actually be a net positive contributor on your files -- it takes thousands of hours to build-up skill and experience. In your fantasy, you don't sound particularly willing to put in that time and energy. You should be. Vulnerable family clients deserve counsel willing to make the necessary commitment. If you're not committed to the craft of law and advocacy, you're not really going to help anyone much. If you're not helping others and you're probably not making much money, I wonder why you would do this at all. 

 

Thanks for your response. Do you know family lawyers who are making a lot of money? It seems tricky to ask a lot of money from such vulnerable parties. Part of me feels like because I didnt capitalize on OCI and law school recruitment, I have missed my chance to be something in this profession and make decent money.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

hiccups
  • Lawyer
8 minutes ago, LawAspirant said:

Thanks for your response. Do you know family lawyers who are making a lot of money? It seems tricky to ask a lot of money from such vulnerable parties. Part of me feels like because I didnt capitalize on OCI and law school recruitment, I have missed my chance to be something in this profession and make decent money.

Those that make a lot charge a pretty high hourly rate and have years of experience under their belt. Their clients are usualy high net worth individuals with a lot of family assets to fight over. It would be pretty hard to get to that stage working part time in family law though. I imagine that would involve drafting some uncontested divorce separation agreements and maybe providing ILA occasionally, but that's about it. 

Also I don't think you should underestimate the time committment it takes. For example if you open your own practice on a part time basis, you still need a trust account and that requires certain trust accounting reports to be submitted to the law society on a monthly basis. Most sole practicioners I know use a bookkeeper service for that which costs a few hundred bucks. It's not a lot when they're running a practice full time, but not really worth it if you're only billing 10 - 15 hours a week on the evenings. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

LawAspirant
  • Articling Student
38 minutes ago, Jaggers said:

If you were doing solicitor work (eg. helping people incorporate, some IP stuff, corporate filings) it is probably doable. In areas involving litigation it would be pretty tough to balance with a full-time job because mediations and court appearances all happen during normal business hours.

What if the 9-5 is largely work from home and I have a lot of freedom? 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

LawAspirant
  • Articling Student
8 minutes ago, hiccups said:

Those that make a lot charge a pretty high hourly rate and have years of experience under their belt. Their clients are usualy high net worth individuals with a lot of family assets to fight over. It would be pretty hard to get to that stage working part time in family law though. I imagine that would involve drafting some uncontested divorce separation agreements and maybe providing ILA occasionally, but that's about it. 

Also I don't think you should underestimate the time committment it takes. For example if you open your own practice on a part time basis, you still need a trust account and that requires certain trust accounting reports to be submitted to the law society on a monthly basis. Most sole practicioners I know use a bookkeeper service for that which costs a few hundred bucks. It's not a lot when they're running a practice full time, but not really worth it if you're only billing 10 - 15 hours a week on the evenings. 

Could I work for another law firm taking on a small case load?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

ZukoJD
  • Law Student
22 minutes ago, LawAspirant said:

Thanks for your response. Do you know family lawyers who are making a lot of money? It seems tricky to ask a lot of money from such vulnerable parties. Part of me feels like because I didnt capitalize on OCI and law school recruitment, I have missed my chance to be something in this profession and make decent money.

Most law students don't capitalize on OCIs and the average lawyer makes decent money. I think this sentiment is misguided. 

Edited by ZukoJD
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

hiccups
  • Lawyer
5 minutes ago, LawAspirant said:

Could I work for another law firm taking on a small case load?

But how will you find a firm that will hire you for a job after 5pm and in the evenings only? Everyone else that are working with you will probably be working day time. 

I mean, its not impossible I suppose. Anything is possible and you might just need to find the right firm with specific needs that make you a perfect match.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

realpseudonym
  • Lawyer
27 minutes ago, LawAspirant said:

Thanks for your response. Do you know family lawyers who are making a lot of money? It seems tricky to ask a lot of money from such vulnerable parties. Part of me feels like because I didnt capitalize on OCI and law school recruitment, I have missed my chance to be something in this profession and make decent money.

I know family lawyers making what I consider to be decent money. I guess it depends on what you consider decent money. If you’re looking to make mid-six figures in your first few years of practice, no, that’s not likely as a typical family lawyer representing vulnerable clients. If you’re okay making mid-five figures at first, and growing into the high five figures / low six figures, that’s very reasonable. 

If you’re committed to helping the needy, there are basically two ways to make decent money in retail law: volume and better-paying clients. Richer clients are usually less accessible to you early on. So you’re often taking small retainers and LAO certificates as a junior. The more you work, the more you make. But the quality can suffer. And you can burnout. So early on, it’s a balancing act between taking enough work to make a living and not so much work that your files are getting done poorly. 

7 minutes ago, LawAspirant said:

Could I work for another law firm taking on a small case load?

Maybe as a contract worker — I will sometimes work on contract for other firms, and sometimes send parts of files to other lawyers. You’d often still need to keep records of that though, so you wouldn’t get around the bookkeeping issue. 

In terms of being a permanent, part-time employee, I agree with @hiccups. It’s possible, I guess. But it’s not very attractive from a firm’s standpoint. For starters, as I said before, I don’t think you’ll be as good as someone who practices (or at least has practiced) full-time. And even if that’s not an issue, you’ll be competing for that work with others who aren’t already full-time employees elsewhere. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

KOMODO
  • Lawyer

It's not family law, but some large firms do hire part time lawyers to perform doc review type tasks - I've heard of people who had arrangements with Blakes, McCarthys, Osler, some of the big accounting firms, etc. which all have departments dedicated to providing that type of support from non-associate/partner-track lawyers. My sense is that usually everyone in the arrangement knows that it's a relatively temporary gig while the would-be associates are looking for more traditional jobs, but perhaps there would be room for you to take on 10 hours a week or whatever of doc review while working a traditional 9-5. Disclaimer that I have no personal experience whatsoever with these arrangements, I've just heard about them second and third hand so I don't know what the compensation or other requirements are like.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

AHLALA
  • Lawyer

During the first years of your career, I feel you really have to do it full-time to learn the skills and get the experience.

After that, you can cut back on hours and probably manage most of your practice outside of business hours. That said, you will have to devote large chunks of time to your legal work during business hours (trials, mediation sessions, very short deadlines deliverables, ...) - if that is incompatible with your other side-gig, then it might be a no-go.

I understand you might not want to too much into details to preserve confidentiality, but it would be useful to have an idea of what you have in mind for your side-gig. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lawstudents20202020
  • Lawyer

If you want a side gig that doesn't involve regular hour work I would suggest doing notarizations on weekends or simple estate planning. Both of those can be done in your own time without support staff or trust accounts. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, LawAspirant said:

What if the 9-5 is largely work from home and I have a lot of freedom? 

It depends on the terms of your contract? But litigation jobs (and family law I would say counts) often require big chunks of time devoted to mediations or court appearances, so your employer may not be very accommodating.

There are definitely flex/gig jobs in law that you could find. I just don't think many are in family law or other main litigation practices.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Patient0L
  • Law Student
2 hours ago, Jaggers said:

If you were doing solicitor work (eg. helping people incorporate, some IP stuff, corporate filings) it is probably doable.

Part time IP solicitor work sounds like my dream come true. What path does one get on to land there?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Aureliuse
  • Lawyer
5 hours ago, LawAspirant said:

am having this fantasy where I work that other job which is 9-5, and then just take on a small amount of legal clients (mostly family law) that I can give a lot of attention to at night. Is this ridiculous? Are there too many urgent matters which might arise in a family law proceeding where I couldn't manage it after 5pm? Am i being completely ridiculous? 

Full-time family law practitioner here. I practice family law exclusively.

Please, please, please, please DO NOT dabble in family law. I am not calling into question your aptitude, your passion, your hardwork, or your plans in this area. Rather, I want to give you a reality check before you think family law can be practiced "part-time."

Family law is a highly sophisticated area of law with a lot of traps, oversteps, and missteps an inexperienced lawyer can encounter. It's not as simple as "it's just custody and couples fighting." It's about client management, careful planning, reasoned settlement positions, and tireless preparation for litigation. It also about know "who to turn to" in moments of crisis and doubt for help and expertise.

If you are doing any kind of litigation or alternative dispute resolution, and want to do your job well, there wouldn't be enough time in the evening or weekends to prepare.

Collaborative practice is also not easy. It requires a lot of preparation. It is not just "watch your client sit down and talk with the ex-spouse."

Excellent legal research and submissions take tremendous time to hone, review, edit, and proofread.

Financial documents can take days (even weeks) to review. Corporate business expenses, movement of family funds, and childcare expenses require time to organize and presented in a persuasive way to the court or an arbitrator.

Proper pleadings require a lot of investigation into the background family circumstances of each client.

Arbitrations/mediations/motions/conferences can take the whole day.

It takes time to build up community resources for referrals and assistance (women's centres, psychologists, supervised parenting centres, real estate agents, professional appraisers, accountants, social workers, parenting coordinators, retired judges, mediator/arbitrators etc.).

It also takes time to build trust and reputation with every family law judge in your region. This helps tremendously when files are going haywire because clients refuse to listen or opposing counsel is an arse.

After many years in practice in family law, I still do not feel confident in my ability and experience to prosecute every case.  Some days I get a consult and feel that I have no idea what to do. Even files where I think I have a good handle on will surprise me in ways no legal research could've prepared me for. I am on the telephone frequently with many other more senior family law practitioners to discuss difficult files and strategize together. At some conferences, I am there to ask an experienced family law judge for advice and directions.

You are working with other people's family and their kids, please please please do not treat them like "a part-time gig" and not give them the attention and hard work each family deserves. Few things in life trouble me more than seeing a badly managed family law file with lawyer-inflicted damages that have become beyond repair.

5 hours ago, LawAspirant said:

I want to practice family law because I had my own issues growing up which I had to resolve  through years of introspection, therapy and studying and which has made me an empathetic person. I think I could help a lot of people throug hthat really hard time. However I am unsure about my ability to make a lot of money in family law or if I even want to be someone who make s alot of money breaking people apart. Perhaps if family becomes more collaborative like certain areas of the states but for now as it remains adversasrial it is tricky. Anyways I digress, but I wanted to give you an understanding of my thinking. 

You need more than being empathetic to be a good family lawyer. You also learn when to be callous, when to draw the line, when to cut a file loose. Sometimes, you need to yell at your clients or warn them in writing to bring them back in line.

I got myself in trouble more times than I can count because I was compassionate, empathetic, and caring.

If you are thinking of making money in family law, go elsewhere. Collections is a huge issue, along with fee assessments and delinquent clients who refuse to pay bills. Even upper-middle class family law files can teeter on the edge of bankruptcy in the middle of litigation. Access to justice has been a crisis in family law for decades (why? People can't afford lawyers).

Think carefully before entering the vineyards of family law. There are many good reasons why so many lawyers wouldn't touch family law with a ten-foot pole. After years of practice in family law, I find that they are more intelligent than I am.

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

happydude
  • Lawyer

I think it depends on your case load. "A few cases here and there" and a "small amount of legal clients" leaves things open to interpretation. If you are only carrying a handful of files at a time, max, then I think it is doable, even for a litigator. You can schedule proceedings months out and just make sure that you take a vacation day from your full time job on dates where you have a mediation, discovery, etc. You can also just make sure you prep far enough in advance for things that you are not caught with your pants down to prep for a discovery for example.

Things might heat up at times without as much planning being possible. E.g. being unexpectedly served with a motion record. That could cause some stress and late nights to draft materials in time if you cannot work during normal business hours. But generally, I think if your case load is small enough, you could do it. And motion dates are usually canvassed. 

A trial would definitely be problematic. But I suppose you could be up front with your clients at the start, and make clear to them and incorporate into the retainer that you would only represent them up to and including pre-trial. Query if you can truly give your clients the best service possible if you are unwilling to take a case to trial if necessary. But some folks might be content with that and have no appetite for trial anyway. Plenty of litigators avoid trials at all costs. I do not think even think trial possibilities would necessarily preclude you from this plan. Overall, it seems doable even if a hassle at times IMO, but I am not sure I would recommend it, for a variety of reasons. Heck, even trial dates, you often get those a year or more out, and could plan to take a few weeks of vacation to coincide to assist...

A bigger issue might also be competence. I am not sure one can really become an effective lawyer working only piece meal. At least for a year or two I would think you need to immerse yourself in it. I suppose one could argue that is what articling is for...

Your practice would likely need to be limited to a relatively narrow scope of files.

Edited by happydude
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Aureliuse
  • Lawyer

In family law, 10 percent of your files can take up 90 percent of your time. I will leave the OP with this observation.

I start every family law file with my mind toward trial. Every decision is made along the way with the understanding that my file is going to trial.

Also query, how many counsel are willing to take an "eve-of-trial" file?

Edited by Aureliuse
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't know enough about family law to say it, but I think that you got the definitive answer from Aureliuse.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dream Machine
  • Lawyer

You can, I'd say, quite easily make 100k as a family lawyer (at some point, but not at all far in the future). Heck, 1st year associate salaries in family law at small firms in Ontario (and outside Toronto in fact) are quite commonly 50, 60k+ (not very good imo, but still not hard to see how doing the math on your productivity as a 1st year associate in family law could lead to 100k with more experience). 

Even on legal aid with only some private clients, 100k is very realistic. I note though that you did not mention 100k, but I'm just throwing out a figure to crystalize my meaning.

An issue is that many lawyers are poor business people, they lack discipline in billing (e.g. do too much work before getting their retainer replenished), and do not know how to market themselves (and heck, this latter part is really not even required in any kind of even above average way to hit something like 100k.)

Now, is 100k a lot? I'd say no given the cost of law school (financial and opportunity), the stress of family law (unless you're one of those family lawyers who seem to handle it well) and other alternative careers (and fields within law).

Family law also has a reputation as an undesirable area of practice for many lawyers, and there's a lot of work left over that's taken up by incompetent or substandard practitioners (indeed there is little bar to entry given how easy it is to get work by starting your own practice). If you actually end up enjoying family law, I think you'd have a better chance of being financially successful as well. There are lots of unhappy family lawyers that are not doing great work. It would not be that hard to displace a lot of those lawyers.

I've known many family lawyers (and briefly practiced in the area), and I'd say for those that stick around in the area for at least a decade, "high" salaries are relatively common (although definitely no guarantee). I know many family lawyers that net 200k (a little less, or much more) in small shops, or as solos, etc. Just do the math. Even without collecting all of your billings, having a "low-lowish moderate" rate like $200-300/hr, you can easily keep your overhead low, and net 100k (with a good chance of a much higher income, later in your career). If you're likeable, reasonably intelligent, and have even half an ounce of business sense, a 200k income is a pretty realistic goal (but far from a guarantee).

Senior family lawyers netting 300k, 400k at shops you've never heard of? Totally a thing.

I think there is a good chance that I have met (personally) 10 year+ calls that were family lawyers still making around 100k (tend to be the ones still doing mostly legal aid). I remember one family lawyer though telling me about another family lawyer that they thought maybe netted about 200k doing almost entirely legal aid (although high volume legal aid, and so the value or ethics of that I'll leave up to you to decide).

Family law lends itself well to entrepreneurialism. If you have any desire to do that, you can really take advantage of higher profit margins by cutting out other lawyers taking a chunk from you as they would in a firm.

You could also find yourself at a relatively "large" (say 20-30 something lawyer) full-service firm outside Toronto that doesn't require OCI level grades. Those firms will generally pay you what associates in the other areas of litigation get paid (at least as far as your base salary is concerned, your hourly rate would affect the amount on top of that). 

Family law isn't criminal law. There are lots of paying private clients. And you don't need a roster full of them to make 100k or even 200k a year.

Edited by Dream Machine
Link to comment
Share on other sites

LawAspirant
  • Articling Student
20 hours ago, AHLALA said:

During the first years of your career, I feel you really have to do it full-time to learn the skills and get the experience.

After that, you can cut back on hours and probably manage most of your practice outside of business hours. That said, you will have to devote large chunks of time to your legal work during business hours (trials, mediation sessions, very short deadlines deliverables, ...) - if that is incompatible with your other side-gig, then it might be a no-go.

I understand you might not want to too much into details to preserve confidentiality, but it would be useful to have an idea of what you have in mind for your side-gig. 

Its a work from home tech job. I have some tech skills and right now if i follow a roadmap, i know i would have the skills to land a solid work from job type job.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

LawAspirant
  • Articling Student
19 hours ago, Jaggers said:

Ask epeeist. That's his shtick.

Who is that

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lawstudents20202020
  • Lawyer

Just to add onto @Aureliuse's comments, I'm making a pretty big career change because I can't focus on family law at my current firm.

There's just too much going on to dabble in it and the consequences of mistakes can be huge and can't be fixed with money. 

 

 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.


×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By accessing this website, you agree to abide by our Terms of Use. YOU EXPRESSLY ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT YOU WILL NOT CONSTRUE ANY POST ON THIS WEBSITE AS PROVIDING LEGAL ADVICE EVEN IF SUCH POST IS MADE BY A PERSON CLAIMING TO BE A LAWYER. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.