Job Facts for Contract Attorney Jobs

Contract attorney jobs are a growing part of the legal profession. In this article, we'll look at what the contract attorney position entails, as well as positives and negatives of the job.


A contract attorney is an attorney who is hired to work on a specific project on a temporary basis. He or she is not a member of the law firm handling the project and at the conclusion of the project is not retained by that firm. The terms of their temporary employment are covered by a contract. The length of the contract can vary greatly. Some contract attorneys are employed for only a few days while others may work for a year. Only in very rare cases will the contract period exceed a year.

A contract attorney does not have the same benefits as a regular firm member. The pay can also vary quite a bit, ranging from lows of around $20.00 a hour for very simple work to over $100.00 an hour for highly complex projects. Any branch of the law can employ contract attorneys but corporate law and civil litigation are the main employers.

In many cases, contract attorneys are assigned to review documents to find information relevant to the particular case they are working on. Duties can also include legal research, preparing briefs and transcription of sensitive documents. The majority of the "glamorous" legal work such as legal writing and courtroom activity goes to the full-time members of the firm, while contract attorneys and paralegals do the "meat-and-potatoes" work.


A successful contract attorney enjoys a degree of freedom that a regular attorney tied to a firm does not. They can pick which projects to accept and which areas of the law to work in. This may give them more time to devote to family and other pursuits. They also have great mobility and have the option of moving to different cities or states.

It must be said that a beginning contract attorney will not have the luxury of being "picky" with assignments and will have to do quite a bit of legal "grunt" work before getting to the stage where they can choose assignments.


A contract attorney has no guarantee of employment and can be terminated at any time, so there is no certainty with any particular project. The hours for a contract attorney can be long and the work very tedious, particularly in cases where a lot of document review is required. In contracts where major document review work is necessary, it is not unusual to spend 12 hours plus a day going through tens of thousands of electronic documents to determine if they are relevant to the case or not.

There is some opinion that being a contract attorney may hurt chances to advance in the legal profession. There is often a feeling that contract attorneys are glorified "temps" and good only for low-level work. While this is definitely not the case, it is an unfortunate prejudice held by some.


With the huge increase in electronic documentation, the contract attorney field is set to grow even further. It is definitely a growing part of the legal profession.