Updates and advice for attorneys and law departments.

Never Worked with a Temporary Attorney Before? Here’s How to Balance In-House and Outsourced Resources

At the heart of every effective corporate law department is a commitment to collaboration. The shared expectation that in-house attorneys “do more with less” can unite the team, encouraging internal staff to share their knowledge and lend a hand when their bandwidth permits. Yet even with total in-house cooperation, there will still be situations where practice area complexities or swollen workloads require the assistance of outsourced support.

What happens when temporary attorneys are brought into the fold? Will they fit into the fabric of your team or stick out like a sore thumb? The results depend on how well your organization follows these law department management strategies.

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1. Prepare Your In-House Team

Though a survey conducted by the Association of Corporate Counsel found that 51% of in-house attorneys were not worried about losing their job due to COVID-19, opinions can change with the variability of market and economic conditions. When there’s a lack of communication about changes to the law department roster, by introducing temporary talent, some individuals are quick to fill the silence with their own assumptions.

Questions like, “Why are we engaging new people? Is it because of increased workload or dissatisfaction over in-house performance?” or “Are we hiring temporary talent because leadership is cutting our budgets?” can spiral out of control and sow uncertainty in the ranks. Even if you regularly need seasonal temporary attorneys to address an influx from taxes or during contract upticks, your team may still wonder without proper clarification.

That’s why any change in a law department should be defined by transparency. An oft-cited study shows that those organizations with exceptional internal communication were significantly more likely to have a lower turnover rate than their less transparent competitors. Telling your in-house team who will be joining your team, in what capacity, and how that will impact the day-to-day operations will go a long way to assuaging any concerns and preventing unnecessary turnover.

2. Perform Mini-Onboarding

Effective collaboration is all about setting expectations. Even if the project is only going for a short time, you’ll still get a better performance out of your temporary attorney if he or she understands your culture and expectations. Studies of onboarding practices show that professionals are 50% more productive when there are structured processes in place.

Though long-term retention is less of a concern, there are a few fundamentals to keep in mind to empower temporary attorneys to achieve full productivity fast. Early clarification of the depth and extent of the role and project responsibility are essential for even experienced attorneys to hit the ground running. Regardless of whether an attorney is on-site or remote, it’s important to inform them of your working culture, aligning it with their needs and motivation. Often, remote attorneys benefit from a virtual introduction to the team and access to any internal communication tools (within reason and necessity) to perform at their best.

Effective onboarding requires necessary upfront work. A temporary legal staffing partner can appropriately prepare your temp attorney for the situation. With the right partner, your temporary personnel will receive full briefing on the role, responsibilities, project goals, and corporate culture. This allows you to maintain your focus on managing the department rather than chaperoning temporary talent through the early stages of the contract.

3. Create a Positive Environment

A temp is never just a temp. In our experience, there are numerous stories of temporary arrangements converting into permanent roles (our partnership with a top tech manufacturer is a perfect example). Even if the need for your temporary attorney is complete at the end of a project or timeline, the attorney’s experience carries out into the world, providing your organization with positive or negative PR.

From sourcing and screening to engaging and onboarding, you want the recruitment process to go off without a hitch. Even if the temporary role requires little supervision or guidance, the availability to answer questions is essential to exceptional results.

Working with the right legal temp agency can streamline the communication process. In our partnerships, we maintain communication with our attorneys before, during, and after the placement to ensure the best outcomes. By providing them with much needed support throughout our relationship, you’re more likely to receive positive project outcomes, better collaboration, and a strong reputation at the end of the contract.

Not only can working with legal temp agencies improve your law department workforce management, but they can save you money too. Request a quote to see how Assigned Counsel can provide high-quality, experienced attorneys for less than your law firm partner or our closest competitors.

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