In the current economic climate, many businesses seek law firms offering reduced rates or alternative fee structures to lower their legal bills. But lawyers are overwhelmed because their pool of associates is smaller due to layoffs and hiring freezes. Rather than hiring additional associates, firms increasingly rely on temporary "freelance" or "contract" attorneys to meet their clients’ needs.

A freelance attorney is a solo practitioner who provides temporary legal services to law firms, rather than representing clients directly. The temporary attorney provides a final written product, which the firm then reviews, revises or approves, and signs. Freelance attorneys provide services to law firms independently, or through companies that handle administrative issues. Firms rely on freelance attorneys to assist during busy periods like trial preparation, to add specific expertise and to lower fees to firm clients. Freelance lawyers are essentially contract lawyers but the term "freelance lawyer" is increasingly used to describe experienced lawyers who handle substantive projects rather than appearances or document review.

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