Uber Into Law?
A True Story
This past April, and again this August, I found myself in Chicago in need of transportation. I down-loaded the Uber app and quickly found myself using Uber to move about the city seamlessly. In the even you have not used Uber, unlike conventional taxis which you can flag down at the curb, you have to use your smartphone with the Uber app to identify where you are located. Then you wait for an Uber driver to signal a fare. That driver’s vehicle shows up on your screen within the city grid, moving across the streets as it approaches you. You see a small timer with the number of minutes estimated for arrival time and also a very small picture of the driver, license number, and the make of the vehicle that will be picking you up.
For every ride (about 15 in total), I took the opportunity to ask drivers about their experience and how much they were making on average. I will not quote figures, but they were pretty impressive. And all of the drivers expressed satisfaction with Uber and the program. Mothers, with children in school, could drop the kids off and drive throughout the day. Then they could check out and pick up their kids from school. One driver was saving money for her wedding by driving before and after she reported for her full-time job. A number of former cabbies were driving for Uber.
The ability to check in and out as you please and to operate as an independent contractor (unless defined otherwise in the courts) was a great draw. In addition, no money changes hands as your ride is charged to a credit card account which Uber keeps on record. They discourage tipping so drivers generally do not carry cash. Their vehicles were all very clean and are checked out by Uber before they sign a driver on. I was told that cars could not be over 10 years old and had to go through a safety check. The payment for the driver is made each week into the driver’s account and Uber keeps 20%.
As I attended the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago, it occurred to me that a recent grad who is waiting for Bar results, or someone starting out with extra time on their hands, could Uber for income until they got their practice up and running.
Think about it. If you were paperless (it has so many advantages) and your software was in the “cloud”, you would be able to access your files from anywhere. Further, with a laptop and smart phone, if a client called, you could either have an answering service or use Google Voice to transcribe any voicemails. After your fare (if you are occupied), you could immediately check out of Uber, park, and conduct your business from your car. You can use a number of available call forwarding apps so that your client will not know where you are, or what phone you call from when you respond to an incoming call. Besides, clients are accustomed to speaking with their attorneys who are constantly on the go.
This gives you the opportunity to obtain a constant stream of income while you develop your business. You could Uber early in the day and late in the evening. You could Uber on weekends. From the conversations I had with drivers, those times were the most productive times for income in any event. Uber offers to link you with local auto dealers and will help you with the financing of a vehicle. But, you might even be able to drive your current vehicle. One of my drivers was driving a car with 130,000 miles on the odometer. He said he had to have it inspected, and several maintenance items were necessary, before he could put it into service. But he said, after the inspection and work he had done on it, it never ran better.
So, if you have a clean driving record and are able to operate from a mobile office, you might be a candidate to Uber into solo practice. Check it out. It might be an option to help finance your start-up. There is no shame in working a job on the side to get yourself established. And this type of work has the advantage of being very flexible. With the technology available today, you have so much more flexibility than lawyers had even ten years ago.