The Ins and Outs of Working as a Legal Temp

Is legal temping right for you? The answer might well be “yes.”

While some may fear a stigma from working a temp job, that’s not necessarily the case. The University of California Berkeley School of Law notes that it’s not uncommon for people to work as legal temps while they’re looking for permanent jobs or waiting for their bar results to come in.

A 2014 survey found that 82 percent of respondents said they were using temporary or contract lawyers, according to The Emergence of Nontraditional-Track Lawyer Career Paths from The National Association for Law Placement’s New Career Models Task Force.

“I have hired per diem attorneys who I already have a relationship with, a full-time attorney, and a per diem attorney agency to help me cover my work overflows,” says Nance Schick, from the New York-based Law Studio of Nance L. Schick, which focuses on worker misclassification.

Working as a Legal TempKen Aldous, an attorney in solo practice in New York as well as a solicitor in the U.K., says he worked as a temp paralegal for a year to help him decide whether he wanted to go to law school. In the process, he says he worked with a number of attorneys and paralegals who temped. Often, they had some passion or interest other than the law, and working as a temp gave them the flexibility to work for a few weeks, then take off for a few weeks, he says.

Temping can also provide experience that proves valuable later when applying for permanent positions, writes Christopher Gearon for U.S. News and World Report. Moreover, salaries can be comparable to those of a mid-level associate at a small to medium-sized firm, he notes.

It particularly helps if you have some other sort of specialized background or experience, Aldous adds. For example, having a finance background could make you more attractive to a firm looking for someone to do complex financial transactions, he says. This can especially be the case when a law firm is using temps to consider expanding into another practice or geographic area, writes Jonathan Tung in FindLaw, who adds that legal temp workers are “becoming the norm.”

One of the questions you need to ask yourself is whether to work with an agency. “It can be a great help to work with a true temporary agency that has structured its business in compliance with all laws, rules, and regulations relating to your geographical location,” says Schick. “It will be the employer of record and take care of payroll processing, withholdings, and filings.” Agencies typically often do pre-screening, and the law firm itself will likely do additional screenings as well, she adds.

“Temp agencies for the legal profession are a booming business because of the advantages for both employer and employee,” writes Kathy Crawford in “The employer often pays less because they don’t have to pay out benefits or taxes. The employee still gets those benefits through the legal temporary agencies and can sometimes find permanent work through temporary assignments.” For example, some temp agencies offer benefits such as health insurance, Aldous says.

A temp agency job turned into a permanent one for Aldous. “After a while, they actually hired me from the temp agency,” he says. “At least in the paralegal world, they can turn temp into full-time if they like you.”

Finally, as you do the work, keep an eye out for potential conflicts, even if you’re concerned that you could lose the job as a result, Aldous says, who regrets that he once had to let a temp legal professional go due to such a conflict. “You might have an economic incentive to sweep it under the rug, but you have a legal obligation,” he says.


Ready for a new career opportunity? For more information about opportunities in the legal field, contact Special Counsel today.

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