In-House Legal Departments Are Hiring Contract Attorneys, But Should You Temp?
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Summary: More in-house legal departments are hiring temporary attorneys for projects, but should lawyers accept these non-permanent positions?

In-house legal departments’ biggest expense often is the cost of labor. To save money, departments have copied what many industries have done–hire temporary workers instead of committing to full-time employees. This allows the company to terminate the position easily and skimp on benefits. So why should attorneys take on temporary jobs if the positions seemingly are only in the company’s favor? Robert Gibbs Jr. of leading legal placement firm, BCG Attorney Search outlined the reasons why temping is great for some but harmful for others.


“For an out-of-work lawyer, the question may seem simple enough at first blush because temporary work is, among other things, a paying job,” Gibbs Jr. said. “[However] I suggest you give it a closer look before making a final decision. Being a temporary attorney can have a great effect on your legal career. It is more than simply serving as a way to make money until you find your next or first permanent position.”

REASON TO TEMP: You need the money.

Whether you’re a law school grad who didn’t land a job or you were recently laid off by your firm, the legal job search can be daunting. Student loans, family expenses, and rent can creep on you while you’re hunting, so it makes sense that you would take anything that pays you to be an attorney. Gibbs Jr. said that some temporary attorney jobs actually pay quite well per hour and they sometimes give you the flexibility to go on job interviews for permanent positions. In that case, why not be a temp for a while?

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REASON TO NOT TEMP: You will not grow as an attorney.

The problem with temporary work is that you can become a permanent temp, meaning you temp for years and years. It’s easy to take on a temp position, work on a project, and then take on another project; and soon you find yourself in the same position for much longer than you had expected. Gibbs Jr. said that this is dangerous because you get stuck doing one thing and you stop growing as an attorney, which limits your career prospects down the road.

REASON TO TEMP: You need supplemental income.

For some attorneys with full-time jobs, their pay just may not be enough to fund their goals, which could include starting their own practice or paying for a family emergency. Whatever the reason, they take on a temporary assignment to bring in more cash until their goal is met.

REASON TO NOT TEMP: You want a foot in the door at the company. 

Some attorneys take on temp assignments at companies hoping that higher-ups will notice them and hire them as permanent lawyers. Gibbs Jr. said that this is a pipe dream.

“[Becoming temp to permanent] is certainly not unheard of, particularly at small firms,” Gibbs Jr. said. “However, temping should simply not be seen as the alternate route for getting on track as an associate with a firm. For the most part, and particularly at larger firms, the decision makers at the top firms will generally never lay eyes on you or even know you were the person who put together their witness kits or did the research on an issue for a memo. Of course, getting a foot in the door, no matter how big the door or how small the foot, is one way of getting out there in the job market, but especially in this case, it should never be utilized as your primary and/or sole search method. Ultimately, very rarely do contract attorneys get hired as permanent associates after “proving themselves.””

Source: BCG Attorney Search

What do you think about temping? Let us know in the comments below. 


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