To Temp or Not to Temp

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					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-


Description: 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.
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