Side Jobs for Lawyers – A Terrible Idea?
Not every legal job pays well and some pay so poorly that lawyers are forced into side hustles. As lawyers, though, side hustles come with a word of caution. Practicing law on the side has a slew of pitfalls that could imperil your job and your legal career.
Before you commit to any kind of moonlighting, please first consider the following perils of side jobs for lawyers.
Before You Look Into a Side Job as an Attorney – Check your Agreement.
Some employers strictly forbid any kind of working on the side. Some employers have a clause that calls for immediate termination if an employee is found to be moonlighting. This may seem like overreach, but there are a few valid reasons why your legal employer might be threatened by your side job. These reasons include:
Your legal employer is required to run conflicts checks for its clients. If you don’t disclose your moonlighting, and if one of your moonlighting clients has a conflict with your day job’s clients, that could mean your firm is guilty of an ethical violation and this could mean the firm loses the client.
If something goes south with your side hustle, your legal employer’s legal malpractice insurance may be implicated.
If you are practicing law outside of your typical legal practice, you have to stay abreast of all the ethical rules for dealing with your clients and referrals. That means you may need to disclose to your clients at either your day job or side job your interest in
Beware of Lost Focus.
Your employer has some expectation that you are working for it during working hours. But if you’re working on growing your side hustle, it can bleed into your normal working time and shift your focus from working for your employer.
Be Wary of Lost Time/Energy/Opportunities
Your employer shouldn’t be the only one worried if you’re burning the candle at both ends – you’re the candle after all! An employer could worry that you don’t have enough left after being committed to other commitments. And while your employer doesn’t own all of your time and energy, you also need time to yourself to take care of your life, recharge
More than taking your amorphous idea of time/energy from your firm, your firm might be concerned that you might actually be taking clients and opportunities from your firm. Your firm obviously will not look fondly if you are trying to poach its clients for yourself. If you are getting clients using your firm’s credentials, that can be a serious problem for your firm.
Be Wary of Lost Reputation
Prestige is hugely important to attorneys. I remember reading a blog series from a now-defunct blog about an attorney who delivered pizzas on the side to help pay off her debt. She lived in mortal fear of delivering to her coworkers or her clients. Personally, it wouldn’t be worth it to be me to live with so much dread. Either I do the job with pride or I don’t do it at all.
Side Jobs for Lawyers
There are likely plenty of side hustles that won’t endanger your job. Generally, remember to:
- steer clear of practicing law outside your job;
- stay away from working for competitors of your firm’s clients;
- keep focus on your main job or finding a new main job;
- keep time for destressing and relaxation.
A side job can be a boon to your main job if it helps you destress through increased financial or creative energy. The best side job for an attorney likely:
- doesn’t have long-term commitments;
- doesn’t require set hours (lawyer schedules can be unpredictable);
- provides valuable skills such as public speaking or negotiation; and
- is not very stressful and/or is even enjoyable.
Consider discrete one-off activities like:
- dog sitting for Rover (this is my favorite);
- write or proofread on Upwork;
- gigs or part-time work off Craigslist or Indeed.
According to my research, lawyers have also found work bartending, umpiring, refereeing, and, of course, delivering pizzas. Personally, I have worked for a dating service and at my rock climbing gym, both of which I greatly enjoyed.
Conclusion – Side Jobs for Lawyers – A Terrible Idea?
I understand the allure of having a side job as an attorney. It provides extra money and sometimes a creative outlet. But as a lawyer, you’re always on the lookout for your clients to avoid bad outcomes. You also have to consider potential bad outcomes for your potential side job. It’s also important that you manage your time and energy.
But if you find a job that provides you with some needed leeway in your budget, that doesn’t conflict with your work, and is something you don’t mind or even enjoy doing, then godspeed.
What side jobs have you taken?