Number of freelance solicitors doubles, SRA data shows

updated on 12 June 2024

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The number of freelance solicitors has doubled over the past three years, from around 300 in 2021 to 650 at the beginning of 2024, according to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). However, freelance solicitors still make up less than 1% of practising solicitors.

The SRA research found that flexibility (79%) and independence (75%) were the main reasons solicitors chose to freelance. However, the report also found limitations to this way of working.

To be a freelance solicitor, you need three years practising experience and to hold adequate Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII). Obtaining PII was found to be the primary concern and the main deterrent from the freelance solicitor role, with almost one-quarter stating they were initially unable to secure cover. The SRA recommended that freelancers can adapt their working model to gain insurance by joining professional associations, for example.

The report also discovered a range of hurdles once freelancers begin practising. For example, freelance solicitors can hold client money only for payments but not for bills. Practice areas are also limited as they can’t provide immigration services, claims management or regulated financial services, unless supervised by another suitable regulator. Some practising solicitors surveyed (23%) reported that they wouldn’t want to work on a freelance basis because of the restricted practice areas. 

The research also looked at the demographics of the 52 freelancers surveyed and interviewed between January and August 2023. The data showed that, on average freelancers were 50.2 years old and have been active for 19.6 years. The majority of the sample reportedly work in London (40.3%), the South East (16.1%) and the South West (8.5%). In addition, 60% of freelancers stated that they work only on a freelance basis, while some noted that they also practise as an in-house solicitor.

The SRA compared these demographics with the profession overall, surveying 1,700 practising solicitors. The results showed that more freelancers are men (61%), which contrasts with the profession generally, where 48% of solicitors are men. Black solicitors make up 8% of freelancers, which is higher than the proportion of Black solicitors in the profession generally (3%), while Asian solicitors account for 12% of the profession but 17% of freelancers.

You can find out more about freelancers by reading the SRA’s full report.