In recent years, the gig economy has expanded to include lawyers. Unfortunately, there is no reliable mechanism for tracking the growth and composition of this subsector. Some of the larger and more established managed service companies(also known as alternative legal service providers or ALSPs), such as Axiom, UnitedLex and Counsel On Call, maintain a stable of employed lawyers who are regularly assigned to major clients. Although these lawyers are technically contingent workers, a large portion is W-2 employees who are eligible for benefits through the company. However, these lawyers are the exception rather than the rule. Most lawyers in the gig economy are independent contractors with no guaranteed flow of work and relatively little leverage to negotiate for higher rates or wages.
Lawyers working in the gig economy are likely to be counted through the U.S. Census Bureau’s Nonemployer Statistics Program.NES is an annual series on businesses that are subject to federal income tax but have no paid employees. Thus, to be clear, if a solo practitioner employs a secretary, paralegal or associate, this arrangement would qualify as a law firm and would, therefore, be tracked by other Census Bureau programs. In 2016, the legal services sector (NAICS 5411) had 285,603 nonemployer establishments. Of this number, 54,742 (19.2%) generated revenues in excess of $100,000 per year; 15,312 (5.4%) exceed $250,000 per year. At the other end of the spectrum, 83,439 (29.2%) had revenues of less than $10,000 per year. Table 3 contains a breakdown for the United States and California based on the type of entity.
Legal Market Landscape Report. Commissioned by the State Bar of California July 2018. by William D. Henderson.