Archive for September, 2007

Etiquette In Responding To Agency E-Mails and Calls

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

I’ve been hearing quite a few gripes from other fellow contract attorneys about legal staffing agencies that rarely respond to or reply to phone calls and e-mails. I’ve had the same experience with a few agencies so I know how they feel.

Particularly when you are between projects and you’re trying to get aboard another assignment, it’s easy to become frustrated when the agencies give you no love. Some agencies are worse than others but I won’t name any names for now, but I’m sure we’ve all compiled our own lists of agencies with bad “customer service”.

But I will give credit where credit’s due. In my opinion, Update Legal has always had an excellent track record when it comes to contract attorney attention. Tom the Temp up in New York City seems to dislike their New York operation but I personally have no problem with how Update Legal runs their D.C. office. They’ve always returned my emails and phone calls, even when they didn’t have any assignments to offer me. I think it’s excellent form the way they are so prompt in getting back to their contract attorneys who are often deservedly anxious about finding employment.

I Try To Return the Good Favor

Of course, in return I always try to reply back to the good agencies whenever they e-mail me to check if I’m available for a project. Even if I’m already on an assignment, I think it’s common courtesy to write back to let them know my current status. In this business, maintaining good relationships is important. I know some people will say the agencies don’t care about their contract attorneys and that it’s all abut the money. In many ways it is always about the bottom line, but remember, many of the staffing agency recruiters used to be contract attorneys themselves. They’ve been through the contract attorney system. If you treat them with courtesy and professionalism, they are likely to return the favor.

There are a few agencies that will ignore you regardless if they are not currently staffing anything, so as always, individual experience will vary from person to personality.

Signing Up With the Newer Agencies

Friday, September 28th, 2007

I try to increase my contract attorney leads by registering with as many agencies as I find reasonable. I’m currently registered with more than 15 different places, but the thing I’m finding is that only about half regularly contact me and provide me with valuable job leads. The others might call or e-mail me once every few months, which is far too infrequent for me to have and maintain an on-going working relationship with them.

There are several newer agencies that have just recently popped up that I haven’t gotten around to visiting yet. I probably won’t get to them immediately until they have established themselves for a while first. There’s no point in taking time out to hand over your professional and personal information including social security number until you can reasonably expect employment leads as a result of your efforts.

I have noticed that a few of the newer staffing agencies have been regularly posting contract attorney leads on the various listservs, which is a good indicator that they are getting a steady stream of job orders to fill. If they can keep it up for a few more months I will likely pay them a visit to register.

However, there’s been a few startups that I haven’t heard from in a long time. I suspect either business has dried up or perhaps they’ve already established a small in-house list of dedicated temps that they regularly call on for projects, and I’m not one of them. It’s okay. I will eventually develop a relationship with all of them when the time is right. At the moment I am fairly comfortable with the 6 primary agencies that I regularly work with. However, since the market’s been drying up recently, I may soon increase my list of preferred agencies. I know of at least one new agency that entered the staffing business having already developed a solid prior relationship with one of the major law firms. It may be time to take advantage of their connections.

Exiting the Legal Field Completely Isn’t For Me

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

I’ve always believed that the efficient contract attorney can best improve his or her professional prospects by diversifying his or her skill sets and abilities, whether it be by acquiring an accounting background or improving a pre-existing language skill. I suppose another way to broaden one’s employment choices is to change fields altogether, although that’s something I wouldn’t consider myself.

I’m writing in response to today’s Wall Street Journal follow-up article on Monday’s piece regarding the dismal state of the legal employment market. The follow-up article reported that Seton Hall law graduate Scott Bullock, the first lawyer quoted in the original article, has finally jumped ship, quitting his law firm job and joining a former high school friend to work as an electrician. The article reported that he’ll be paid the same as his former lawyer job, about $50,000.

Contract Attorney Work Can Be A Great Stepping Stone

Is that how far the attorney job market has deteriorated? We now have lawyers quitting their jobs to become electricians. I wonder why doesn’t he work temporarily as a contract attorney until he gets back on his feet? Many contract attorneys perform document review work for short stints while they plan out their future. It is much easier to plan for the future when you are actively working and paying the bills than when you’re just sitting at home all day, moping about your plight. Performing contract work will keep you productive during the day so you don’t completely fall out of the legal loop. Despite what some may say, document review does entail the practice of law, albeit in its lightest form.

Working as a contract attorney is still a job, and indeed it’s a well paid job. The work is not particularly stressful and there is usually time after work to develop other side opportunities. The wage rate and hours are generally very good and the hours are flexible. Taking time to develop your side business or consider future projects can be performed during your non-working hours. I even see some do it at work during their breaks, talking on the phone to clients of their part time real estate business or like me, typing on this blog during my mandatory lunch break.

I know some contract attorneys have grown very disillusioned with being an attorney and have chosen to exit the legal market altogether. However, I am concerned that these people are wasting the time, money, and effort they previously invested in their legal education. Yes, a law practice is not for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you should ditch everything you’ve learned altogether and go become an electrician. That is, unless being an electrician was your original calling. But for most people, they should keep finding a way to put their education to good use. There are related opportunities out there.

I’ll admit, I haven’t decided exactly what my next professional move will be, but it certainly won’t be what the attorney in the Wall Street Journal Article did. I truly wish him well if that is what he wants to do, but as for me, I didn’t rack up law school loans for nothing! My future move might not necessarily be a legal practice but it will at least have some tenuous connection to my education and previous legal experience.