It is a nice spring Monday and your do-it-all assistant is on vacation enjoying the warm weather and ocean breeze. Unfortunately, this is also the Monday when your phone is ringing off the hook and a client has a legal emergency that requires more research that your firm can handle. If this scenario hits home, there is a good chance your small law firm has not mastered the concept of staffing up and down. Your firm needs to have a good working relationship with a legal focused staffing agency to help you expand and contract as needed.
Let’s say A to Z Law, PLLC is a general practice firm with two attorneys, one paralegal and a legal assistant/receptionist. While handling its normal caseload, A to Z Law learns that a couple of their cases are going to require a lot more work than anticipated. Let’s look at the options:
Work Longer Hours Any hours added to the A to Z Law’s attorneys might help pad their pockets, but they risk giving up valuable personal time or even new work that could produce a higher rate per hour than realized while performing research or organization of case files. By requesting the staff to work longer hours, the firm risks upsetting the current culture and margins by needing to pay staff overtime rates and requiring them to work longer hours thus affecting their work-life balance.
Hire New Employees Hiring a new employee is expensive for A to Z Law in terms of time and money. There is posting the job, filtering resumes, background checks, conducting interviews and negotiating with candidates. Then there is the time and expense associated with the paperwork required to hire the new employee. Finally, A to Z Law will have to manage the time and expenses associated with terminating an employee or having them leave for another job. Everything from the exit interview to the paperwork does nothing to advance their firm. They have to think ahead to what will happen when the workload stabilizes or drops and they become overstaffed.
Temporary Staffing An established legal staffing agency can provide A to Z Law with many benefits:
- No responsibility for taxes and insurances.
- Pipeline of prequalified candidates looking for temporary to full-time work.
- Flexible work hours based around firm needs.
- Updated background and drug tests on qualified candidates.
- Interview notes or videos.
- Simple one-rate invoicing.
- Firm specific training.
Due to the current job market, A to Z Law could utilize a legal staffing agency and bring on qualified legal assistants to attorneys. While there is a chance the temporary staff could find a full-time position during the course of the project, the legal staffing agency will be able to manage any such transition seamlessly by providing another qualified individual. The firm will pay a slightly higher rate than if the firm employs the individual on their own. However, the time saved through the process along with being able to terminate the individual or even decide to directly employ said individual at any future date will provide the firm with the flexibility to adapt on the fly.
The A to Z Law scenario is not uncommon. The question your firm now needs to ask is, “Do we have the relationship needed with a legal staffing agency that enables us to staff up and down as needed?” Make sure your firm takes the time now to establish a working relationship with a legal staffing agency. By doing so, your firm will save time and money when it needs to staff up. Pick an agency that will:
- Take the time to learn about your firm culture.
- Examine your employee handbook or help you create one.
- Learn about desired candidate qualifications.
- Provide guidance with respect to the current market and pay rates.
- Have a pipeline deep enough to provide you with the necessary assistance in a timely manner.
- Prepare temporary staff prior to first day on the job.
- Provide simple pricing structure that is all inclusive and potentially allows for temporary staff to be hired full-time.
There are many ways a legal staffing agency can assist your firm once the relationship has been established. These include, but are not limited to:
- Providing short-term temporary staff when employees are sick or on vacation.
- Providing project based assistance when there is a rise in workload.
- Replacing an employee with a temp-to-hire candidate.
Utilization of a temporary legal staffing agency is ideal for smaller firms who need to be flexible as to the size of their firm while keeping costs and non-billable time to a minimum. CChris Vaughan