Lawyers could increasingly choose a path as a freelancer

Are temporary and contractor lawyers the new normal?

The use of interim lawyers and paralegals has grown in popularity in recent years as cost-conscious legal departments try to be efficient with their finances.

It is widely accepted this will be one of the biggest areas of change in the next five years, particularly with regards to in-house teams, as they become increasingly comfortable with the notion of handing out short-term contracts to manage workflows.

The nature of major cases or big corporate deals lend themselves to the interim worker, as workloads will often increase dramatically over a short period of time, so there is a requirement for ad hoc additional resource.

Why use temporary or contract workers?

Firstly, it makes financial sense. Businesses will be much more efficient and cost-effective if extra staff are only taken on when there's a specific requirement, such as maternity leave or when there is a certain skills gap in the team that relates to a contract. Moreover, temporary or contractor workers are ideal for covering periods of staff illness.

If legal team leaders are not sure about how work levels are going to pan out in the long term, they will rightly be reticent to commit resources to permanent staff, so interims provide a perfect solution. Finally, there is also the opportunity to treat a period of temporary work as an extended interview, as people may well choose to offer a worker a permanent contract period at the end of a successful short-term arrangement.

Why be a temporary or contract worker?

As permanent, full-time, salaried employment becomes increasingly tricky to secure, many legal professionals will view contractor work as a way to acquire valuable experience, which may help them secure more concrete terms further down the line.

However, for many, the situation is being viewed as an opportunity to earn roughly the same money for working fewer hours. Temporary workers are typically paid on an hourly or daily rate, while contractors are usually paid monthly as with permanent employees.

Jordan Furlong, a legal industry analyst, believes millennials are well placed to cope with the changing labour market. Writing in the ABA Journal, he said this is because they are "on record as seeking customisable, flex-time employment that allows them to accommodate work within a larger set of priorities".

Being successful as an interim

So, what skills do lawyers need to have in order to succeed in this new agile legal world? Firstly, they have to be willing to be flexible and undertake a series of multiple short-term engagements.

Interim lawyers also need to be technologically capable and demonstrate a proficiency for multidisciplinary tasks. Finally, creativity is essential, as making an immediate difference is central to being a good temporary or contractor worker.

The typical career development is no longer static and as a freelancer, lawyers can choose the number of hours they wish to work and develop a varied clientele and professional experience. As future employment is set to be independent and entrepreneurial in nature, the responsibility lies with the individual to make a success of the opportunities presented to them.