Revisiting the Benefits of Using Contract Legal Professionals

Cutting costsAs we sit on the starting line of a dash back toward economic recovery, it is a good time to explore the benefits of utilizing contract personnel. For some of you, this may be a refresher on the topic, but for others, this will serve as a valuable introduction. While a relatively new phenomenon, the adoption of the use of temporary lawyers and other legal professionals and paraprofessionals, has nonetheless become mainstream for many of the reasons below.

By using temporary legal staff, firms can control costs, staff at optimum levels and handle matters they may have declined because of staffing shortages. This practice allows a firm to reduce its unemployment liability and co- employment issues, while addressing the firm’s needs without adding to the firm’s overhead (salary, payroll taxes, worker’s compensation insurance, benefits, cost of recruiting and screening applicants, payroll processing, etc.).

Using a temporary staffing agency can also help a firm manage and facilitate growth. For example, a firm can staff for the “life of the case”, i.e., it can utilize a cost-effective method of providing high- quality legal services with long term commitments. The firm can determine if there is sufficient work to justify a direct hire and firms can avoid the rushed hire of lateral candidates when a new spate of work, possibly short-lived, comes through the firm’s door. And morale can be kept at a high level by neither overloading staff personnel when the project is peaking, nor downsizing upon its conclusion.

Flexibility is an asset many of our clients cite as among the most important benefits offered by temporary staffing. Clients may engage in “just-in-time” hiring, which gives them the ability to broaden the scope of their practice on an as-needed and practically immediate basis. Very often, a client will ask for a candidate with specific credentials and the candidate is sourced within the same day or within the first 24 hours of the request. This makes clients nimble and able to accommodate even some of the most obscure requests, not to mention the ability to source someone with an uncommon skill or fluency in a rarely heard foreign language. Bringing on a temporary employee also helps to manage scheduling conflicts.

Law firms may lower their bill rates by using contract personnel while simultaneously expanding the talent base available to the firm, and thus, the firm’s clients. With contractors on board, job satisfaction can be higher for those on the firm’s payroll as they can be assigned the more sophisticated work that needs a higher degree of skill and attention.

Of course, one of Special Counsel’s specialties is in staffing e-discovery document reviews and these projects are manned by contractors. Engagements range from a single contractor to a handful and even to hundreds. The ability to handle matters or cases of any size vaults the reputation of any firm by proving it can handle such volume and size.

David Maldonado is a Special Counsel Senior Vice President and editor of The Column.

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