Opinion | 16-04-14

Interim Lawyers: Creating a flexible structure

Over the last few years there has been a real shift in the UK in the way that corporates manage their own internal resource. Many have started to tap into the interim legal recruitment market as a way to contain costs without compromising on quality.  In our latest Opinion article we outline why businesses can really benefit from creating this more flexible working model and why lawyers opt for this way of working. 

With the dust now settling from the economic downturn, it is clear that the legal landscape has changed dramatically. As a direct result of this, in-house legal departments have undergone increased forensic examination of headcount and legal spend. This has culminated in a surge in the utilisation of temporary and contract lawyers, who represent the most cost effective way of increasing resource at short notice, without compromising on quality. 

Interim engagements can be structured in a number of ways, allowing the business to find the solution which best suits their needs. Temporary lawyers can be contracted to the recruitment consultancy, such as SSQ Interim Solutions, on a contract for services basis but work on-site (and/or remotely) within the hiring business. They are paid weekly by the recruitment consultancy, after completing a timesheet, and the end business is then subsequently invoiced. Alternatively, lawyers can be engaged on a fixed term contract whereby they are, to all intents and purposes, employed and paid by the business in the same way as a permanent member of staff, but there is a pre-agreed end/renewal date in place. Finally, consultant lawyers/secondees are representatives of their professional service companies. They are usually engaged in the same way a business would instruct external counsel and paid through legal spend rather than headcount budgets. 

What are the benefits to businesses? 

Interim lawyers represent the most cost effective way of deploying talent quickly, providing businesses with the ability to increase resource at short notice, creating a high quality but fluid workforce. The result is a reduction in the overall legal spend and an increase in productivity for a required period. 

While it is true that hiring contract and interim lawyers helps to contain costs, the benefits of this flexible resource go further than this and there are a number of other reasons why this model is attractive to businesses: 

Flexibility: Non-permanent hires can be utilised for fluctuations in work, while not being a permanent cost to the business. There is real flexibility around contract lengths and we work with clients who look to take on additional resource for just a few days, right the way up to 24 months and beyond. 

Skill shortage/project work: Interims can be hired to provide skillsets that the current in-house team does not possess and/or for a specific project rather than diverting a permanent team member from their ‘normal’ role. 

Maternity & paternity cover/long-term sickness: Interims allow for a fluid continuation of the role while the current incumbent is on long-term leave, resulting in no loss of productivity or over-stretching of the remaining team. 

Headcount restrictions: Contractors can provide a sometimes much needed route around permanent headcount sign-off issues. Many of our clients have found that bringing consultant lawyers on board means that a project can be managed through the legal spend, which ultimately controls headcount costs. 

External law firm cost saving: More and more GCs are now looking to hire contractors in-house to undertake certain pieces of work where they would traditionally instruct a law firm. This allows the GC to keep costs to a minimum, as well as benefit from having that work completed in-house, thus keeping it closer to the business. In addition, the quality of the work does not suffer due to the top tier lawyers who choose consultancy work over the traditional legal route of permanent employment. 

Access to talent: Working in this way allows lawyers to build their skillsets and experience at a variety of different businesses, while giving the individual greater flexibility within their personal lives. This combination has led to an influx of top tier lawyers making a move into the interim market, giving businesses easy access to talent like never before. These lawyers bring excellent academic qualifications and training, but also the ability to “hit the ground running”, making them an attractive prospect for contract/project work.

SSQ Interim Solutions is an expert in the interim market and we continue to be at the forefront of helping clients identify the right lawyers when this need arises. We understand the market, including the drivers from both a client and a candidate perspective, and we recognise the specialist skills that are required for these roles. This means that we can quickly identify the right candidate for our clients, ultimately providing lawyers who are the greatest benefit to the business. 

Why do lawyers choose this way of working? 

Simply put, the lawyers who choose this career path (and it is a career path) do so simply because the market allows them to. Businesses have started to see the benefits of interim lawyers and this increased demand means that there are plenty of opportunities. However, the bi-products are also very attractive. These lawyers quickly build up their experience and skillsets, taking them to a variety of different industries and sectors and giving them access to excellent work and varying challenges. In addition, contract work gives lawyers a more flexible lifestyle, should they wish, allowing them to choose when and how they work. 

If you would like more information around the interim market and how hiring a temporary, contract or interim lawyer might benefit your business please contact Becky Mackarel.