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Hourly Rate for Freelance Work

Hello friends! I am dipping my toe into the freelance legal writing world, and I am trying to figure out a fair hourly rate for my services. What would you all expect to pay? I live in Columbia, South Carolina (state capital, lots of lawyers). I have been licensed for five years and practiced law in a major city before moving to Columbia, I spent time clerking for a judge during and after law school, and I consider myself to be a strong writer. The project I just completed was met with rave reviews by the solo attorney, who was relieved to get the project off of his desk and excited that it was handled so well. I can see this as a possible future niche for myself.

tl;dr: How much should I charge attorneys hourly to do their legal writing for them?


  • It's good that you wanna do what you believe. You may charge $20+/hour depending on your work.

  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin

    The last time I billed by the hour for legal writing work, I charged $150/hour. And the last time I checked, outsourcing firms in India are charging $50–100/hour, so there's no way I'd bill less than that.

    There's some discussion of pricing in this podcast with @LisaSolomon, and maybe she'll stop in to give some advice.

  • AFFAFF United States

    Idk. Without pre-existing relationships with the attorney, and if you never talk to the client, I think $100/hour is a good rate. A former clerk for the judge I regularly practice in front of is $90 to $120. YMMV.

  • SCFreelancerSCFreelancer Columbia, SC

    Thank you for the input @samglover and @AFF, it is great appreciated!!

  • When I did some contract work for a local attorney (about a year when I launched my own firm) we had an arrangement where I was paid a third of my billable rate. I believe this is a standard practice in Georgia, but it may be different in South Carolina.

  • AsherWatsonAsherWatson Greenville, SC

    Are you speaking of legal brief writing, or content writing (e.g. for a practice website, blog, etc.)?

  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin

    For copywriting I would probably offer something in the range of $15–30.

  • SCFreelancerSCFreelancer Columbia, SC

    Hey @AsherWatson, thanks for the follow up. I am speaking of legal brief writing.

  • Joey541Joey541 El Paso, Texas

    How is the freelance market? Assuming you produce quality work, is it a sustainable business?

  • SCFreelancerSCFreelancer Columbia, SC

    @Joey541 as stated in the original post, I am just beginning to investigate this option. Not sure the answers to your questions.

  • @SCFreelancer -- I'm in a very similar boat as you. Practiced for five years at a big/regional firm before deciding that I care about quality of life and career satisfaction. I left to "work for myself" 8 months ago. In short, I began my foray into solo practice by freelancing 90-95% of my time. Eight months later, freelance work has settled at about 1/3 of my total time (the other 2/3 being work for regular clients), which I find to be a great balance. Freelancing has been invaluable to growing my solo practice and establishing myself as a competent attorney in my area of focus, which is fairly niche.

    I charge $160/hour for freelancing, versus $265-310/hour otherwise, but the work is more (a) consistent/steady, (b) predictable/controllable (i.e., I'm able to exercise considerable choice over the projects I take), and (c) likely to be timely paid in full. For these reasons, a reduced rate is worthwhile. I personally feel that many freelancers undercut their value and bill too low. At the end of the day, however, you can only charge what the market will bear. Your experience, the nature of the work (level of sophistication, responsibility, specialized knowledge, etc.), and the quality of work product will dictate your rate within the ever-elusive market constraints. For high quality general litigation drafting, I suspect $125-150/hour is more than reasonable and fair. In my experience, firms want to apply at least a $100/hour or, better yet, $150/hour, markup to your hourly rate. Be efficient with your time and use common sense in billing the attorney/firm client (i.e., if an entry needs to be cut down, cut it yourself before invoicing the attorney/firm).

    My unsolicited two cents: freelancing is a fantastic opportunity, either as a primary source of income or a means to an end (or combination of the two); and it's an easy sell, being that it essentially allows firms to hire an associate on a project by project basis at a fixed/pre-determined margin (in Arizona, at least, it is permissible--with some restrictions--to apply markups to freelance work). That being said, it is imperative that you remain focused on what you aim to get out of freelancing. It's far too easy to get sucked into it full-time and neglect to grow your own client base/book of business, if that is your ultimate goal.

  • Joey541Joey541 El Paso, Texas

    @Rockshox010 - what have you found to be the best way to market your freelancing availability? Did you join a freelance network, prior contacts, online marketing?

  • @Joey541 -- I'm kind of lucky in that my prior legal experience was in a niche industry, where everyone knows each other and there are only 5-6 attorneys in my state who practice in that area. Through my contacts in the industry, I started getting freelance work from an attorney in my city that I'd worked with on some matters/deals when at my previous firm--and it just grew from there. So, mostly networking at industry events, etc. I don't have any knowledge of how well freelance networks work, although there is some content on Lawyerist about them that seems promising. If you have any more questions, I'm always happy to help if I can. Feel free to message me and I can give you my e-mail, if desired.

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