What’s more, law firms and corporations that may have used temporary staffing solutions sparingly in the past, or that tried them for the first time during the pandemic, are now turning to them repeatedly. They’ve discovered that meshing the talents of their internal team with contract attorneys can help them improve their processes and workflows, lower costs, and achieve consistently outstanding results. As these organizations move forward, their perception of contract staffing will continue to evolve as they discover more varied opportunities to put it to use.
One of those opportunities is filling the void left when an attorney goes on leave. Increasingly, law firms and corporations are planning for these contract staffing needs several months in advance. Perhaps this is because so many legal teams were abruptly caught short-handed at moments during the past two years, and they never want to be in that situation again—or it may simply reflect growing confidence in temporary staffing. Leaders are also more likely to recognize that they shouldn’t rely on old protocols of divvying up work among peers when an attorney is out. We’ve all seen the fallout from attorney burnout, and no one wants to further fuel that fire.
Happier, less stressed talent. Speaking of attorney burnout, 2022 is seeing a new cohort of contract lawyers who are definitely not suffering from that particular affliction. These highly qualified pros are raring to go, as they have chosen to infuse their careers with balance while continuing to make a good living. Think about it: If a contractor is making $125 an hour, and they’re working 2,000 hours a year (40 hours a week x 50 weeks), that’s a run rate of $250,000—not a bad income, particularly when it comes with flexible terms. (They can often achieve that steady influx of work by working through an ALSP, which may also offer benefits and other perks.)
Even if they are making less than they were before, many contract attorneys are willing to make the trade-off: less money for more time to travel, write a book, start a business, or pursue other interests. And just like law firms and corporate counsel, many contractors are seeking “try before you buy” relationships that enable them to work with different teams to see where they might find an ideal fit for a permanent position.
The power of relationships. An important lesson many legal organizations learned in the chaotic environment of 2020–2021 was that incorporating contract attorneys into an overall staffing strategy requires an engaged staffing partner. Identifying and hiring talent to fill a particular need should never be a one-off transaction, but rather part of an ongoing strategy to have a strong, collaborative team in place. In 2022, these organizations are looking to solidify their relationships with their ALSPs to achieve long-term staffing success.
Good ALSPs are doing their part by getting to know their clients’ people, culture, and organizational structure well, so that they recognize a good fit when they see it, regardless of whether it’s to fill a particular role at a particular time or in anticipation of future needs. When a great résumé comes across their desk, they should know exactly where that candidate belongs and reach out proactively to let their client know about that talent before anyone else has a chance to swoop them up. This type of close relationship is essential to staffing success.
Overall, the outlook for legal staffing through 2022 and beyond is positive. While there are still issues to navigate—heavy workloads, attorney burnout, talent wars, and the prioritization of work-life balance—agile, cost-effective solutions are at hand. Corporate legal departments and law firms that strategically dovetail in-house and contract talent will be poised to win the day.