The year 2020 has been called “the most interesting budgeting season in years” by Law.com, and we at Assigned Counsel® would have to agree with them. Budgetary priorities have been jumbled and reshuffled in ways few would have expected at the beginning of the year, when COVID-19 and social distancing weren’t part of our collective vocabulary.
Now, Altman Weil’s 2020 Chief Legal Officer Survey suggests that 60% of surveyed CLOs are seeing corporate revenue drop, and 44% plan to cut 2021 corporate law department budgets. In effect, these constrictions will require organizations to develop a strategic staffing plan. Engaging temporary attorneys for a wider variety of legal work and assignments can be an efficient and cost-effective component of your strategy.
But what if you want to convert a temporary attorney into a permanent position? Do you need to classify attorneys as temp-to-hire from the beginning? What should you expect to spend compared to permanent talent from the start? Below, we’ll answer these and other questions law departments are asking as they recalibrate their workforce for the challenges of 2021 and beyond.
Which Budgets Are Available?
For those law departments approaching the end of their fiscal year, there’s budgetary pressure on top of the usual tension of overseeing legal matters. Will there be any remaining money for last-minute emergencies? How will the law department handle urgent matters when that budget is depleted? A temporary attorney might seem like an obvious solution for either predicament, but what about addressing long-term or ongoing needs? This is when a temp-to-hire attorney is the right answer.
While permanent hires are paid with funds from capital budgets, any of your temporary workforce can be compensated from your operating budgets. This provides a reliable interim solution for any law department. Your temp-to-hire attorney can resolve challenges typically required of an in-house professional while reducing expenses until your budget refreshes.
Additionally, many organizations have used temp-to-hire arrangements as a way to postpone employment related liabilities until new budgets are available. Working with a provisional resource enables your department to delay the responsibility of salary, wages, benefits, workers’ compensation, tax withholding, and other obligations until a time when finances allow.
How Long Do You Need Talent?
The duration of your placement isn’t a deal breaker for temporary attorneys. We have placed temporary attorneys in roles that last from a handful of weeks to a year or more. You can request to hire / convert the temporary lawyer to a permanent role at any time.
Here’s a hypothetical situation to illustrate the point. You oversee legal services for a healthcare company and need an attorney on-staff to review contracts for the steady stream of employees (from doctors and nurses to billers and administrators) coming into the organization, yet the budget for in-house legal personnel is currently exhausted. If you specify that a temporary attorney is to work within this role for a year, you can still extend the role beyond the initial engagement or convert the temporary attorney into permanent staff.
Do You Want to Audition Candidates Before You Hire?
Hiring has always been a delicate balance. Adding one wrong person can upend the culture and internal work ethic you’ve labored to create. Since there aren’t yet simulators to test out new attorneys prior to hiring them, a temp-to-hire approach is a great way to try before you buy, especially when you work with the right temporary legal staffing partner.
At Assigned Counsel, our recruiters are former attorneys, and are able to knowledgably vet candidates from our own first-hand experience. We conduct bar checks, law school checks, good standing checks, reference checks, and background checks for our placements. With 28 years of experience, we know how to spot qualified attorneys and more importantly, candidates who align with our clients.
With the right legal staffing agencies and a temp-to-hire approach, you can funnel far more candidates worthy of long-term relationships into your organization. That way, you can maintain high-quality across all of your deliverables while giving a trial run to see if your temporary attorneys are the right fit based on skills, experience, work ethic, and personality.
If you don’t want these temporary attorneys to get away, hire them. If at the end of the arrangement they’ve done their job adequately, thank them for their hard work when they leave at the end of the engagement. Either way allows your law department to manage your workforce through unpredictable times – while keeping your costs under control.
How do you know when you should convert a temp attorney to permanent staff? Check out the story of one of our clients to see what it looks like when you bring an excellent temporary attorney into your organization.