Legal Writing Jobs: Important Skills To Learn

Freelance legal writing jobs can be a lucrative way to earn income as a writer. Here is a closer look at how you can become a legal writer and land this work.

A freelance legal writer is a writer who works with or for law firms as an independent contractor handling a variety of legal writing jobs. These writers must have good writing skills and the ability to understand legal terminology and concerns. Because of this niche’s specialization in the writing world, legal writing employers pay their writers well.

So, if you want to get started in a field with high compensation opportunities and demand and feel confident that you can learn the legal industry, then this might be the right field for you. Keep reading to learn how to become a freelance legal writer and where these jobs are found.

How to Become a Freelance Legal Writer

To become a freelance legal writer, you don’t necessarily have to go to law school, though law students are good candidates for this type of work. However, you need to know how to do legal research and write well t branch into this field. Sometimes people who have a starter job in the industry, including legal analysts or legal assistants, will take on some legal writing work on the side. That said, here are the steps you will need to take to become a freelance legal writer:

1. Decide Your Focus

It would be best if you learned all the different legal writing types. Still, you may focus on one type of legal document or one particular niche in the legal industry, such as healthcare law or personal injury law. Doing so lets you focus your research on one area. You might also be wondering, does LSAT writing matter?

2. Earn a Degree

At a minimum, you will need a high school diploma or GED to start as a legal writer, but college is also often necessary. Most legal writing jobs require a bachelor’s degree. However, you don’t necessarily need a law degree, as a degree in journalism or communication may give you the necessary skills.

3. Get Experience

Law firms usually choose people who have some legal industry experience. To be a successful candidate, consider first taking on some technical writing work in the law firm industry, working as a paralegal, or building a portfolio of legal writing samples with low-cost or free work. In addition to legal experience, gain experience in SEO optimization, which can be important if you write online copywriting for legal professionals.

4. Create a Portfolio

Use any items you write in your internship or early legal experience to create a portfolio of legal documents. Always ask permission before including a piece in your portfolio, but most employers are happy to let you showcase your work.

5. Sign up for Job Alerts

Now that you are ready, sign up for job alerts on legal writing or freelance writing websites that relate to new writing job postings. Since you wish to work on a freelance basis, look for those who state they are remote jobs or independent contractor jobs.

6. Create a Legal Writing Resume

Once you have some jobs under your belt through your portfolio creation work, create a legal writing resume. Highlight the firms or marketing companies you’ve worked for and any education or specialized training you have.

7. Start Applying

Once you have some job alerts, apply to all that seem like they have fair compensation and fit your niche. You will get a fair number of rejections, but eventually, some of those applications will turn into a writing job offer. The more you send out your resume and portfolio, the greater your chances of landing a great gig.

What Does a Freelance Legal Writer Do?

Legal Writing Jobs: Contract creation
These writers will craft all types of legal documents to support the needs of the attorneys they work for

A legal writer tackles many documents necessary for a law firm that rely on legal terminology. This may include documents specific to the law firm or the law firm’s website or blog content. Some examples of the writing this writer will do include:

  • Contract creation
  • Legal briefs
  • Legal memos
  • Emails
  • Blog posts
  • Legal content for web pages
  • Case summaries
  • Articles
  • Social media posts
  • Business letters

These writers will craft all types of legal documents to support the needs of the attorneys they work for. While they can work full-time or part-time, these writers typically work on a freelance basis. This independent contractor status allows them to work for more than one law firm, as long as they don’t create a conflicting interest scenario, to build a solid business.

Legal Writing Involves Research

You must learn to perform legal research to be an excellent legal writer. All the documents you create for this job require proper adherence to the law. In addition, it must be factually correct if you advise clients and potential clients about their legal issues in the work you create. For this reason, legal writing jobs are not for the average content writer. You must understand the legal industry, study case law, summarize those laws and analyze industry events. A background in a legal field or training as a paralegal is helpful, but a writer may be able to gain this knowledge and understanding without specific training.

Salary and Compensation for a Freelance Legal Writer

In general, legal writing is one of the highest-paying writing jobs. The combination of legal knowledge and writing skills makes it a specialty niche that demands a high pay rate. A freelance writer’s compensation varies significantly from one writer to the next and is based on competency, legal knowledge, and overall years of experience in the field.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates an average salary for technical writers, which includes legal writers, of $78,060 a year or $37.53 an hour. As a result, this job is in high demand, with an expected 12% increase in demand from 2020 to 2030. Often, freelance writers get paid by the word or piece rather than by the hour. Learning to write quickly but with a high level of accuracy will improve your pay rate in this job.

Legal Writer Skills

To start a career as a legal writer, you will need to develop specific skills. In addition to legal industry knowledge and overall research abilities already discussed, you will want to develop these:

  • Writing skills: You cannot be a legal writer if you do not have a firm grasp of English grammar. Your clients count on you for error-free, clear content, which requires strong writing skills.
  • Proofreading and editing skills: Beyond simply being able to write well, you must be able to proofread and edit what you’ve written to make it even more accurate.
  • Communication skills: You must be able to communicate with your legal clients about their content needs, so communication skills are a must.
  • Work ethic: As a freelancer, you must be able to work independently and keep up with deadlines because your clients will count on you for the timely delivery of their written work.
  • Organization: Managing multiple projects or clients requires you to be highly organized.
  • Technology skills: You will need to understand how to use the computer, surf the Internet, and work on website design. If your clients want website content, you will need to understand terms like SEO and HTML.
  • Trustworthiness: Legal writing sometimes involves handling sensitive information for your clients, and they must trust you to handle it with proper ethical consideration and dedication to the safety of that data.
  • Attention to detail: In the legal world, a slight change in wording can lead to major consequences for your client. You must have strict attention to detail when writing for this field to avoid mistakes like citing the wrong law code or making a false legal claim.

Work Opportunities for Legal writers

How can you find work as a legal writer? There are several options to consider. Some legal writers work directly for law firms. They apply to the firm and work for it as an employee or independent contractor. Others will work for government agencies that are working in the legal field. Sometimes, freelance legal writers work for publishing houses, magazines, or newspapers. This can provide the opportunity to put legal knowledge to work for a more open-ended audience.

Finally, some legal writers work for marketing agencies that market law firms and their websites. Rather than writing directly for the firm, they write for the marketing company to use in marketing the firm. Understanding legal terminology and overall legal concerns do not change in these instances. These work opportunities can be work-from-home jobs or involve working in an office. It may require some travel to get data and information for clients. Regardless of the setting, with some work on your part and the proper training, you can create a lucrative career in legal writing. 

To learn more, check out our guide on remote writing jobs!

  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.