What every law firm should know about Locums

The locum market is booming. Firms of all sizes are increasingly seeing the benefits of sourcing qualified legal assistance on a locum basis. but what’s the locum-motive? When a partner goes on a long summer holiday, a sabbatical or maternity leave, small and medium firms can really feel the pinch. Hiring a locum solicitor to help with a specific project or a temporary increase in your workload can provide multiple advantages. You get the benefit of obtaining an experienced, flexible solicitor who is used to adapting to new environments and getting to grips with projects quickly. Someone who can add value to your team immediately.

Locums are an asset to any firm. Historically hired to cover sickness or maternity leave, they are often hired to provide an extra resource for transaction, litigation deadlines or sudden bursts of client activity. More specifically, locums can cover gaps in the capability of, and provide relief to, permanent associates during the often long, and occasionally contentious, search for a new permanent team member. In the least, they keep matters on track to create a happy landing for a new starter. Clients who choose to do this take the view that locum cover for a difficult-to-fill permanent vacancy will allow them to be less reactive and more discerning in finding the ideal talent for their team.

The market for good locums is recession proof. In an economic downturn, in-house, private practice and local government sectors will want to keep their fixed overheads under control so permanent hires may not be possible. Likewise, at the beginning of an economic upturn, initial uncertainty may mean firms do not want to commit to adding to headcount, and a locum is an obvious solution. 

The legal profession is slightly behind other sectors in taking advantage of temporary and flexible contracts but the tide is changing and the concept evolving.

Historically, there has been a reluctance to use locums based largely on a perception that no-one knows the cases as well as the normal fee-earner. There is also a concern that the candidates may be of lower quality than permanent counterparts. In fact, the quality of locums in constantly improving as solicitors seek more flexibility in the way that they work. We have a lot of ex-partners who want more flexibility in the way they work. They work six months of the year and go abroad for the remainder. Some former City partners are interim locums, between permanent jobs, while others are professional locums who would never consider a permanent position. The best locums tend to be a certain type of lawyer, someone who is not only technically excellent but has a real flair for business development.

Where there was once the perception that locum work came with little security or prospects, successful locums can quickly establish good connections and build up a good reputation, referrals and repeat bookings. Having greater control over their career is a major draw for most freelance solicitors and the number of lawyers choosing to work as temporary solicitors is on the rise. It is another illustration of the increasing importance people are putting on a decent work/life balance. The long-hours culture in law firms combined with the increasing length of the partnership track is putting a lot of junior and mid-level lawyers off the whole idea of working permanently within private practice.

With both parties benefitting, the future for locum arrangements is only getting brighter. In a world in which it is becoming increasingly difficult to juggle the work/life balance, this can only continue to strengthen. It seems to be a case of 'All Aboard!' unless you want to be left behind.

We have over 14 years of specialist legal recruitment experience and a unique hiring and induction process that ensures we engage the best talent for each sector of law we provide for. LR Legal will provide you with a smart, dynamic solicitor who can slot quickly into your existing team for a price that fits into your budget.

If you are looking to recruit a locum or would like to discuss locum career opportunities, contact Leilani@lrlegalrecruitment.co.uk




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