WEEKLY RECRUITER SPEAK 1. 800. 973.1177
To Temp or Not to Temp
[by Robert Gibbs, Esq.]
This week, one of our legal recruiters discusses the pros and cons of attorneys taking on temporary positions, both from the perspective of the ﬁrm, whose
work often requires it, and the attorney, whose ﬁnances sometimes demand it.
Whether to take a temporary position while ends, the contract attorney goes away. only makes sense to want to support yourself
either waiting for a permanent position or and at least start making a dent in your
between jobs is the question faced by a large The law firm has complete flexibility to staff student loan debt while continuing your job
number of attorneys and new law school on an as-needed-basis. An attorney working search. The hourly pay rate may be good, and
graduates in the job market. Although BCG on a contract basis is not an employee so the there are chances for overtime. Additionally
only handles permanent placement, we law firm is not required to provide employee a good deal of the positions allow for flexibil-
are often asked for advice with respect to benefits and avoids any overhead costs such ity to go on job interviews during work hours.
the temporary market in general, and how as payroll taxes, vacation, sick leave, sever-
temporary position affect a lawyer’s mar- ance, etc. Also, the firm avoids the hidden Unfortunately, all too often time flies by and
ketability for permanent positions. For an costs associated with permanent association the next thing you know you have been temp-
out-of-work lawyer, the question may seem with the firm such as training, partnership, ing, on one project or several, for close to a
simple enough at first blush, since tempo- etc. For these reasons, employing contract year. Your experience is limited to litigation
rary work is, among other things, a paying attorneys for large projects is very appealing support (Translation: document production).
job. I suggest you give it a closer look before to law firms. The money is steady but the longer you stay
making a final decision. Being a temporary in the temp field, the less attractive you
attorney can have a greater effect on your As good as contract work can be from become to the majority of firms that you are
legal career: it is more than simply serving the employer side, it is not necessarily as interested in working for as an associate. You
as a way to make money until you find your beneficial for the attorney performing the have not grown as an attorney.
next or first permanent position. work. Before handling exclusively permanent
attorney placements, I was a legal recruiter Because it is what they know, all too often
The Benefits From The Law Firm’s Perspec- who handled, among other things, tempo- people decide to stay on in a temporary
tive rary positions. I have found that temporary capacity. Two years go by. Then three years
attorneys usually fall into a few categories. pass…….
Mounting economic pressures have forced The four major categories are what I call:
the legal profession to explore new ways of 1) career temps, 2) supplemental income Then there is the attorney with law firm ex-
increasing productivity and efficiency while temps, 3) in-and-out temps and 4) hopeful perience and possibly some level of expertise
reducing costs. As a result, many law firms temps. Let’s take a close look at each. in a particular area. For some reason or
routinely engage attorneys on a temporary another, he/she is back in the job market.
(contract) basis for specific projects. During The Career Temp Because of his/her experience, he/she is
peak work periods, special projects, family chosen for a long term assignment. Once
leave or for other needs specific to each firm, The career temp is an attorney who, either by again the hourly rate is good and the flex-
contract legal staffing makes good business choice or by circumstance, makes a career ibility is great. After the initial assignment
sense. In fact, compared to other profession- out of performing temporary work at firms. ends and he/she takes a brief vacation from
als, attorneys are uniquely suited for tempo- Counter intuitively, this is a permanent tem- the money earned doing all those long hours,
rary assignments. They are trained to come porary attorney. There are different roads to he/she moves onto the next assignment.
in, analyze each situation, and quickly and becoming a career temp. Take for instance He/She is establishing himself/herself as a
efficiently solve the problem presented. Em- the recent law school grad who has not se- reliable and competent worker with one or
ploying contract attorneys is a good method cured a job prior to graduation. He/She may more legal temp agencies and his/her phone
for law firms to reduce their costs in several look to temping as a means to earn money rings whenever a job needing his/her skills
ways. As soon as an assignment or project until he/she finds a permanent position. It arises. He/She stays on at one firm for a long
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WEEKLY RECRUITER SPEAK 1.800. 973. 1177
period of time or goes from assignment to For example, I worked with an attorney who selves.” In fact, most law firms’ recruiting
assignment, depending on the market and was laid off from a top 50 law firm last year. of permanent and temporary employees is
his/her preferences. To some, variety is the He came to my office seeking temp work handled separately.
spice of life. He/She earns a good living with- between the time after his vacation and until
out the pressures of life as an associate in a he started a clerkship. He simply wanted to Conclusion
law firm. However, the farther away he/she step in, earn a few dollars, and step out in a
is from associate life, the harder it will be to finite time period. There is nothing in my experience that
ever work as an associate at a law firm again. causes me to suggest that hiring or working
He/She is the quintessential career temp. For the most part, the in and out temp does as a temporary attorney is a bad thing. How-
not accept long term assignments and will ever, as with any other niche in the job mar-
The Supplemental Income Temp not take a position that may interfere with ket, there are important issues to understand
his/her interview schedule. Even if he/she before moving into a particular arena. The
The supplemental income temp (SIT) may does temp for a little bit longer than he/she end results that can arise from jumping into
also be the attorney straight out of law wanted to or returns to temping after leaving the temp market must be considered. Are
school or with a level of substantive experi- a subsequent permanent position, temping you looking for quick money before moving to
ence under his/her belt. This person for from his/her point of view, not just the law the next stage of your career? Will you work
whatever reason has decided to pursue other firm’s, is purely short term and not a way to yourself out of the permanent job market by
ventures, be it a solo practice or a business earn a living indefinitely. staying at temp assignments too long? Are
outside of the practice of law. The business you stunting your legal growth by doing docu-
is in the start-up stages or is not doing well The Hopeful Temp ment review temp work rather than taking a
enough for the attorney to maintain the level substantive position with a smaller firm? Are
of well being he/she seeks, so he/she turns Finally we come to the hopeful temp, also there real temp-to-perm positions out there?
to temp work as a means to supplement known as the “foot in the door temp.” This is Will you have time to interview while temp-
his/her income. the attorney who accepts a purely temporary ing? Should you list your temp experience on
position with the genuine belief that it could your resume? Do the firms you are target-
In this case, the attorney may work as a temp lead to a permanent position with the firm. ing prefer periods of inactivity to temping?
“seasonally,” on a part time/per diem basis He/She truly believes that if he/she does a What kinds of temp assignments are more
or try to juggle the two at the same time. good enough job reviewing documents or beneficial to your career than others? The
Temping for the SIT is purely a means to an preparing witness kits that he/she will get list of questions can go on forever. You have
end and not the attorney’s primary function. considered for an associate position where to determine your short and long term goals
Temping is often a life saver for up and com- he/she is temping. and then look at those questions against that
ing solo practices, or lawyers transitioning back drop. Figure out whether temping fits
from private practice to a business venture. It is certainly not unheard of, particularly into your overall job search strategy and if
at small firms. However, temping should so, how to navigate through the pitfalls of life
The In and Out Temp simply not be seen as the alternate route for as a temporary attorney.
getting on track as an associate with a firm.
I am sure that some of you have heard the For the most part, and particularly at larger
term “keep your eyes on the prize.” The in firms, the decision makers at the top firms
and out temp does just that. The in and out will generally never lay eyes on you or even
temp has a concrete idea of what he/she know you were the person who put together
wants to do with his/her career and how their witness kits or did the research on an
he/she plans on getting there, though he/she issue for a memo. Of course getting a foot
may hit a few snags along the way. Be it a in the door, no matter how big the door or
brief stint after law school to earn money how small the foot, is one way of getting “out
between jobs (or until receiving bar exam there” in the job market but especially in this
results), to the in and out temp, temping is case, it should never be utilized as your pri-
merely used as a financial bridge between mary and/or sole search method. Ultimately,
career goals. very rarely do contract attorneys get hired as
a permanent associate after “proving them-