Commercial lawyer is one of first freelance solicitors

Rayner: There was no choice of insurers

A commercial lawyer based in Stroud, Gloucestershire, who wants to “be her own boss” is to become one of the first of the new breed of freelance solicitors.

Jo Rayner, who is targeting SMEs in the area needing commercial advice, said that with three children she needed a better balance between work and family life.

She is marketing herself as offering “direct access to your solicitor” with no need to visit “traditional legal offices”.

Ms Rayner told Legal Futures: “I’m looking to be my own boss and have variety in my career. Being a partner just does not appeal. I want to be able to control what kind of work I do and when I do it.

The solicitor said that when she was employed, “I was still quite controlled by being involved in big projects and there was not that much client contact. I want to be client-facing”.

She added: “I feel a bit nervous, but the SRA has been absolutely fantastic – I’ve asked them so many questions. I feel confident that I’m fully regulated and ready to go.

“It’s an exciting time for the legal industry. Clients are looking more and more for flexibility and a personal service. Traditional law offers just don’t appeal.”

Ms Rayner said she did not know anyone else currently operating as a freelance solicitor, although she had spotted an immigration lawyer in Manchester on the internet who might be one.

The solicitor has been gathering leads and will start work in earnest on Monday, the day after her indemnity insurance goes live.

Freelance solicitors were introduced last November by the Solicitors Regulation Authority – one of the main changes in its new Standards and Regulations.

They are self-employed solicitors who practise on their own and do not employ anyone else in connection with the services they provide; practise in their own name, rather than under a trading name or through a service company; and are engaged directly by clients with fees payable directly to them.

However, a difficulty with securing indemnity insurance quickly emerged as a major challenge for freelancers, who are required to have ‘adequate and appropriate’ insurance.

Earlier this month insurance intermediary Inperio became the first to launch a product specifically designed for freelance solicitors, particularly those working in consumer law, with premiums ranging from £2,000 to around £4,000.

Ms Rayner said she secured cover from Travelers in January, mainly because she does only unreserved work.

“Insurance companies did not know what a freelance solicitor was or could not insure me, so I went through a broker.

“There was no choice of insurers. I had to write a business plan and submit quite a lot of detail. If I was doing reserved activities, I’m not sure what the position would be.

“The premium was expensive but your other overheads as a freelancer are so low, I think it’s all positive.”

Ms Rayner said she designed her website herself, with the help of her husband, a software architect.

“My website is quite appealing to small businesses. I’m upfront about my hourly rates unlike most solicitors. People want to know what they’re getting.”

Ms Rayner offers a “complimentary 10-minute review to see I can help your business”, and then charges £150 per hour for standard commercial advice – £200 if it is face-to-face – but does not charge VAT.

She offers commercial law advice, such as on drafting new terms and conditions or reviewing contracts, alongside debt recovery and commercial property.

She qualified at a small firm in Surrey, before moving to Shoosmiths in Hampshire and then to Dutton Gregory in Winchester, working mainly in commercial property.

Ms Rayner took a career break after her first two children arrived, then worked for her husband’s media tech company before setting up her own consultancy, working for a couple of large law firms.

After giving birth to her third child in 2018, she decided she would prefer to work as a freelance solicitor.

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