Hiring a Contract Attorney
Attorneys, especially those in small or solo practice, are used to the idea of alternative fee arrangements, or non-traditional pricing for their legal services. But the idea of hiring an attorney on contract still isn’t commonly accepted. However, using this kind of arrangement can be a huge benefit to those who need some extra help from time to time, but don’t quite have the resources to hire another full-time attorney in their practice.
Do you really need another attorney? The first question to ask yourself is why you think you need the help of another attorney in your practice. Is it because your practice is growing and you have more good clients than hours in the day? Or is it because you feel unorganized and unable to handle your workload? Make sure that you don’t mask other practice management issues by hiring someone new – it’s possible you just need to restructure how you run your practice or what new clients you take in.
Define the role – Once you have determined for sure that your practice really could benefit from an extra pair of hands, make sure you clearly define for yourself what you need and want the new attorney to accomplish. Get everything down on paper BEFORE you start looking for candidates, so you are able to properly narrow your search and offer a clear picture to anyone you interview.
Think about everything you would define if you were hiring a full-time employee, and how the position would work with a contract structure. Is the new attorney only working when you call them in, or on a case-by-case basis? Or do you want them to put in a certain set number of hours every week? How will you handle things like billable hours, income tax, benefits, health coverage, etc? Have a good sense of the type of lawyer you would like to hire – someone fresh out of law school? Someone with trial experience? Someone who has knowledge of your area of practice – or someone who brings a new perspective to your clients?
Finding Candidates – When you have a solid job description written, it’s time to start interviewing candidates. State all the details of the position and your expectations in the job posting. While there are a lot of attorneys looking for work these days, interviewing is still a two-way process. Make sure you are clear about your expectations so there aren’t any surprises after you’ve hired someone.
Be specific about what you want people to submit to you – a cover letter is a good way to get a brief writing sample from potential candidates. Set forth in your posting how people should contact you, and how they should not (submit by email, in person, no phone calls please, etc.) Give a deadline for submissions – you don’t want to be interviewing people for months.
Interviewing – Once you have narrowed down your possible interviewees, try to schedule meetings in a block over a day or two, instead of scattered throughout your schedule. This will get the task done efficiently for you, and will keep candidates fresh in your mind as you are considering your decision. Prepare for each interview and make sure you are prepared with relevant questions for each individual. Take notes so you remember what people say.
Hiring – Ultimately, you should rely on your intuition when making the decision of whom to invite to join your practice, even if it’s on a part-time or contract basis. The person with a perfect resume is no good if their personality doesn’t mesh with your practice. When in doubt, follow your gut.
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