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Non-Traditional Job Settings: The Temporary or Telecommuting Lawyer-The Best of Both Worlds or a Big Mistake?

published March 26, 2007

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Temporary Attorney Positions
Non-Traditional Job Settings: The Temporary Or Telecommuting Lawyer-The Best Of Both Worlds Or A Big Mistake?

The PROS of taking on a temporary attorney position are many:
  1. You keep your skills sharp.
  2. You expose yourself to networking opportunities. Some firms will consider their temporary attorneys for permanent positions later on down the road; hence, it may be a good way to "break into" a tough firm.
  3. You maintain a gap-free resume between permanent jobs, relocations, etc.
  4. You maintain the flexibility of having a schedule that will likely allow you to leave at a decent hour, take vacations when planned or breaks as needed, and, essentially, serve as a freelance attorney—with all of the perks and none of the strings attached.

The CONS of taking on a temporary attorney position are also numerous:
  1. If you are practicing in a large city or competitive legal market, you may find that when you go to look for a permanent position, the temp work on your resume hinders rather than helps you. In competitive legal markets such as New York City, for instance, many Big Law firms use temp work as a screening tool. The rationale is that "if a candidate would take a temporary position, for any reason, then he or she certainly is not someone who would work well at a Big Law firm." (Note: We all know this is not true; however, it is an important fact to note when determining whether to engage in temp work.) Hence, in some geographic regions, temp work can be a smudge as opposed to a star on one's resume.
  2. In contrast to the second point under the "pro" section above, some firms have policies against hiring as permanent employees all lawyers who have practiced as temp attorneys at their firms. Thus, you will want to make certain you are clear about a firm's policy before you sign up for a temp position.
  3. Not all temporary attorney positions offer lifestyle freedoms (such as better hours) or creative work. A large number of temp attorneys are hired every year, for example, to do document review. Document review is an important skill to learn if you are an attorney, especially if you are a litigator. However, when you are undertaking document review for nine months or longer as a temp attorney, you are likely hindering your skills instead of sharpening them.

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