Does career success look like more independent working to you? We've been working with colleagues who work with the Vario scheme, operated by Pinsent Masons, to understand more about what freelancing involves. There are several options you can explore in the Scottish market including Pinsent Masons' Vario Scheme, Frasia Wright's Interim Solutions and working as a Locum through Lawscot Jobs.

What is freelancing?

Freelancing is a self-employed way of working. Instead of being employed, a freelancer offers their services to a client for a fee, based around the time they will work for the client. A freelancer will typically be remunerated by a daily or hourly rate, depending on the nature of the role they are undertaking.

Freelancing provides flexibility, and freelancers work in a range of patterns. Some complete an equivalent to full-time work, others choose to work solidly for several months then take periods of time off, some work reduced days in a week, whilst some work reduced hours in a day – these hours may fall within the ‘nine to five’ or alternatively, they might choose to work around their individual life commitments.

Freelancers will often find themselves working for one client, however there is a growing pattern of people working simultaneously for several clients, completing smaller pieces of work for all. Geographically, all clients have their own personal preferences as to where the freelancer will be located, but a combination of office and home working is common to see, although it varies from situation to situation.

Clients use freelancing for a vast array of reasons. It may be to cover maternal or paternal leave within their team, to take on extra resource during a permanent budget freeze as sometimes seasonal work, projects or legislative changes can create additional demand and a freelancer can cover these needs, or it might be to bring new skills into the team or to cover a geographic requirement.

Why work as a freelancer?

Individuals choose to freelance for a range of reasons and you might have enitrely different motivations to someone else. Some examples are:

  • to take time off during the course of the year, using this time to travel, run a business, or maybe to study
  • expand your experience and exposure by working in different sectors or learning new skills
  • work reduced hours or days and use your time to be with the family, or care for a relative
  • continue your career as you near the end of your working life, perhaps as part of a phased retirement
  • reduce the stress you face, as freelancing can offer a way to complete intellectually stimulating work, without the pressure which a legal career can sometimes bring
  • return to work after a career break, as freelancing can help to re-enter the profession after time off.

Freelancing can provide opportunities to gain both excellent in-house or private practice experience, and at all stages of a legal career, whether that be as a paralegal, trainee, or newly-qualified lawyer right through to Partner/General Counsel equivalent and at all levels in between.


Meet Mairi, a freelancing paralegal

As her first legal role, Mairi Pirie has picked up a great deal of knowledge in not only how legal matters are dealt with but also how the modern workplace is run through freelancing.

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Meet Greer, a lawyer returning to legal work after kids

After working a five year stint in-house, Greer Epton decided that she wanted a change of pace from her full-time position and enjoy both a rewarding career and more family time.

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Key considerations when considering freelancing

Whilst freelancing might provide a flexible career for some, freelancing isn't for everyone and you need to think about whether the particularities of working independently will suit you. It's important to think carefully about how you work, what makes you tick at work and what environments or situations you find challenging. The below list are just a few of the points you might address when analysing your 'fitness to freelance'.


A good freelance organisation will help people understand the level of demand for a particular skillset, in that geographic region and what a rough hourly or day income can be. It's important to know that you will be likely to find work as a contractor.

There will be times where there isn’t work. A level of financial security is important to consider and how will it feel to be off assignment for a couple of months – stressful or blissful!? How will you prepare for them and will you deal with a more unpredictable income?

The more willing people are to be flexible in the type of work they take, where they work, the rates they’ll consider, the more options and choices will be open to them. Are there different options that you would be willing to consider?

There are on-going professional development costs that most freelancers will need to pay during the course of the year. Most freelancers report a highly competitive income overall, but all of those unseen costs need to be factored in

It’s important to maintain professional development, there are many ways to achieve this. Some freelance organisations will be able to help and offer relevant courses.

Some freelance organisations will provide this, others won’t. It's important to check what each freelance organisation offers or know what you will need to do as an individual to make sure you're covered.

Freelancers aren’t employed, so you need to be comfortable with the idea of being slightly separate. Many clients will embrace their freelancer and make them feel part of the team, however there are some situations and / or some organisations where the freelancer will be left out, so it’s worth being ready for that. If you're the sort of person that needs to be surrounded by a team either for social or supportive reasons, you may find the independent nature of freelancing more challenging.

It can be somewhat helpful as a freelancer if you are something of a 'social butterfly'. Working in one client after another means you need to quickly adapt to new people and ways of working, be able to build up connections and know who to turn to for what. The ability to understand the workings of an organisation and how to manoeuvre through it will greatly assist each freelancer

Working as a freelancer is empowering, it provides legal professionals the ability to make more career choices than they may be used to. However you need to make good choices and know yourself. It's useful to have a clear understanding of the type of work that suits you, the sort of organisation that fits and what works for you, so you know what sorts of assignments will realistically be a good fit for all parties involved.

Employability advice

If you're looking for a job, make sure you have the basics right. Use our guidance for writing a great CV, completing applications and preparing for interviews.