Rise of the Gypsy Lawyer?

There was a time when the career path of a lawyer was straighter than an arrow.

You went to law school, articled with a firm that hired you as an associate. You worked hard, made partner, at some point took part in management, then retired.

Or perhaps you shifted your practice to one other firm, but essentially the road in front of you was well-worn and clear.

Yes, I’m talking about life before 1990.

Now the road is strewn with rocks and pebbles, and juts around landslides.

The career path of lawyers is less linear.

As a result, an interesting phenomenon is occurring that few law schools and even fewer young associates talk about: the rise of the gypsy lawyer.

In the United States, Axiom Legal, and Outside GC pioneered the process of bundling experienced lawyers who didn’t want full-time work, and selling them to General Counsel at set rates.

In the U.K., Berwin Leighton Paisner pushed the envelope much farther by not only bundling lawyers vetted by the firm, but also throwing in access to precedents and legal advice. Eversheds followed suit with its Agile product, as did Freshfields with Freshfield’s Alumni, though neither allows access to precedents or advice as far as I can tell.

The upshot is that while law societies bemoan the exodus of lawyers (primarily women) from private practice, the industry is now creating new models to take advantage of talent and skills that were otherwise sitting idle.

A new paradigm of nomad lawyer or gypsy lawyer is upon us where skilled lawyers can practice on their own terms, do interesting work, get a decent wage and help their old firms become more innovative in their approach to law.

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