Archive for the 'L.A.' Category

Thoughts and Observations On Contract Attorney Work in Los Angeles

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Contract attorneys are everywhere. Wherever there is an over saturation of law schools, you can be sure there are attorneys who have turned to temporary lawyer work to make ends meet. Although my musings are based mostly on my own active temping experience in the Washington D.C. area, I occasionally like to share what I’ve learned from those who perform contract work in other big hubs such as New York City and Los Angeles.

The contract attorney experiences of those in New York City tend to be a bit nuttier and off the wall than those in other locations. I’m not sure if this is because of the type of people who do contract work in New York or because I’ve only been exposed to a skewed and limited cross section of opinions, but New York City projects seem to be in a weird world by itself. But for this entry let me just discuss what I’ve learned so far about the L.A. contract attorney experience.

Differences Between Los Angeles. and Washington D.C.

I have a friend who has worked in both Washington D.C. and now in the city of L.A. as a contract attorney, so I decided to ask about the differences between working in these two locations. My friend also solicited comments from current L.A. contract attorney co-workers and here are a few interesting observations:

  1. L.A. contract attorneys spend 2-3 hours driving in traffic every day to get to work and spend a ton of money on unsubsidized parking and on the nation’s priciest gas. Most of the work is centralized in the city or on the west-side so getting in and out is a daily nightmare. In D.C., commuting by car is difficult but not impossible. Many choose to avoid D.C. traffic altogether by taking the more convenient Metro subway trains. Yes, they seem to have a propensity to break down and spark mini fires, but they generally run predictably.
  2. Subsidized limousine and taxi rides are unheard of for L.A. contract attorney projects. With the nation’s most congested highways and longest commute times it’s not hard too see why subsidized rides home wouldn’t work in L.A. Washington D.C. and New York City are more compact and many live in the city – so it’s a more workable option for the latter two.
  3. Projects in excess of 50 hours are rare in L.A. I’ve worked 95 hour projects in D.C. but apparently in L.A., such lucrative extended overtime hour projects are almost unheard of. I’m sure they exist, but they are just very few and far between. D.C. and NYC tend to get the bulk of the juicy long hour projects.
  4. Catered meals are not common in L.A. either, although they are the exception not necessarily the rule here in D.C. They are usually offered by agencies and firms to encourage contract attorneys to stay at work longer so you’re more likely to receive catered meals or subsidies when the project office hours extend into the late evening. Since L.A. projects tend to have shorter hours, there is less need or motivation for agencies and law firms there to provide them.
  5. The L.A. contract attorney market is very unpredictable and stagnant right now. Welcome to the unstable world of contract attorneys! It’s like that everywhere, although D.C. and NYC tend to have more established and predictable contract attorney job outlooks. Even in a tough economy like this though there are still projects to be had. You just have to dig deeper but they’re out there.
  6. There are many non-California barred attorneys doing contract work in L.A. I’m not familiar with California’s bar requirements, but unlike Washington D.C., California does not seem to overwhelmingly require contract attorneys to be barred in their own state. At least not yet.
  7. Wage rates in L.A. average around $35 but sometimes they can be as low as $30. Factoring in the high cost of living there, it’s not hard to see why L.A.’ers get the short end of the bargain. Here in D.C. it’s pretty stable at $35 although I’m hoping it’ll rise sometime. NYC seems to have the highest wage rate, but their cost of living is astronomical as well.
  8. Overtime regulations in California differ from D.C.’s. In D.C. contract attorneys get overtime of time and a half for hours worked in excess of 40 cumulatively for the week. In California, they get time and a half overtime after working 8 hours every day up to and including 12 hours. They get double rate after 12 hours. Good deal, except they never get to fully take advantage of it due to their mostly low hour projects.
  9. Apparently, there are many contract attorneys in L.A. who are also part time aspiring actors, writers, and movie producers. Surprise, it’s L.A. where everyone thinks they are a model or an up and coming actress, hoping to get discovered. Not too many of those in D.C. although I’ve seen and met a few contract attorneys who are always working on their novels and hoping to get published someday.
  10. On the whole, L.A. projects tend to be well managed and not very “sweat-shoppy” as my friend put it. I think D.C. projects are generally well managed as well, although there is at least one agency here that enjoys running their projects like a boot camp.

The verdict? Contract attorney work in Washington D.C. pays better, offers better hours, better perks, and offers greater stability with more project opportunities than our brethren enjoy on the west coast. Although I must point out that over there they have much better weather and much better places to eat than here in D.C.