Archive for the 'Professionalism' Category

Reasons Why Your Legal Staffing Agency Is Ignoring Your E-Mails And Calls

Friday, December 7th, 2007

So your project is over…or you are trying to get onto a temporary lawyer assignment for the first time. You’ve been calling all of your legal staffing agencies every day inquiring about available projects but they never seem to return your phone calls or e-mails. Welcome to Temp Town my friend. It happens all the time and drives even project-seasoned grunts like myself nuts. When I first started out a few years ago, I always worried excessively when agencies failed to return my calls or neglected to offer me any updates about project availability. Over the months, I’ve learned to develop a thick skin and a better understanding of why some agencies choose to ignore their bleating contract attorneys.

Why Are The Agencies Showing You No Love:

  1. You’ve Been Blacklisted – This is the worst case scenario but it happens more frequently than people think. There is temporary blacklisting and then there is permanent blacklisting. Temporary banning occurs if you commit an act such as bailing on a project, but can manage to later come up with a relatively credible excuse. The agency may be initially loathe to submit you for further projects but may reconsider in a few months or so, particularly if the market picks up and they are strapped for workers.

    Permanent blacklisting is bad news. This means you’ve done something that has really pissed the agency off or demonstrated that you are an individual that cannot be trusted to handle the duties and responsibilities of the position. Perhaps you severely inflated the hours you worked or you walked off the assignment without a valid excuse. Usually it has to be extreme for the agency to permanently ban you.

    If you’ve been blacklisted, you might not know it for certain but you are likely to never hear from the agency again either through email or phone. They will simply ignore your inquiries. My advice if that happens is to try to get back into their good graces, particularly if it’s an agency that frequently has a lot of good projects. Try to reach a live rep and explain your story with a convincing explanation. Even seemingly permanent blacklistings can be reversed with some fancy verbal spins.

  2. There Are No Projects Available – If there are no contract jobs out there, agencies have no incentive to call back because there is nothing to report. Since there is no financial gain to be had, some may choose to ignore the hordes of people calling in when things are slow. There is always something going on in Contract Attorney Land, but not all agencies have an equal hand in it. It all depends which agency was able to successfully bid out the competing staffing firms. That’s why I recommend registering with a wide range of agencies – so you can maximize your leads and chances.
  3. You Are Not On the Agency’s Preferred Short List For Regular Assignments – Some agencies have a short roll of regular permanent temps they frequently work with as they have built up a good relationship over the years. When the market is slow and projects are harder to come by, agencies will usually turn to their own internal lists to fill staffing needs before blasting out an all public bulletin request for applicants. To get onto the short list you have to butter up your agent over time and become friends.
  4. You Do Not Keep In Touch With Them Often Enough and They’ve Forgotten You – Staffing agents get bombarded with e-mails and calls daily. Here’s one way to look at it – think of the agency as the parent, with a few hundred screaming babies representing contract attorneys. Mom can’t attend to all of the babies at once. If you really want her attention, you had better learn to drag your diaper over there to tug at her pant leg or scream louder than the other toddlers. So, bug the agencies persistently but cordially.
  5. You Are Not Telling the Staffing Agent Which Project You Want To Be Submitted For – Like most employers it makes their job much easier when you tell them exactly which project you want to be a candidate for. Rather than taking the easy route of asking them to submit you for any project, rise to the top of the pile by telling them exactly what you want, e.g. “I want to be submitted for that project down in Fall Church that no one wants,” for example. Or, “please submit me for the project requiring an accounting background because I have the necessary degree qualifications.” I recommend scouring the job forums, the Yahoo Contract Attorney Groups, Craigslist, and the PosseList for leads and then contacting the agency staffing the project in question with directions to submit you for it.
  6. Some Legal Staffing Agencies Focus Mostly On Permanent or Lateral Hires – One notable example would be Kelly Law Registry. They are a big name in the legal staffing world but I’ve rarely seen them staff a contract attorney project. Inquiries for contract attorney positions are likely to go unanswered with similar agencies as well.

It Might Be Tempting, But It’s Never A Good Idea to Jump Ship

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

In this contract attorney business, we all pretty much work for ourselves. There is some loyalty in the sense that if you have a good working relationship with your agency, they may give you the heads up about an upcoming project quicker than they would offer the same information to another contract attorney. But the bottom line is we move from project to project like nomads, chasing the next available assignment, and loyalty is only a means to an end. My sense is that most contract attorneys will stay loyal to the project so long as it is still ongoing and continues to provide a living wage and working benefits. But when the project is near its last legs, or when the working benefits are curtailed or non-existent, there may be a feeling for some that the time to bail is near.

It’s Important To Stay The Course and Not Bail

There have been times I’ve been staffed and ended up stuck on a bad project. Maybe the hours were too short, overtime was limited, internet usage was banned, with no meal reimbursement, and under stifling working conditions. In those type of situations I have seriously given thought to leaving the project mid-stream for another one. My advice is, don’t do it! Projects don’t last forever and they eventually will end.

Ditching an assignment before it is over is a sure fire way of getting on the staffing agency and law firm’s bad side and could and likely will result in you becoming permanently banned from working with them ever again. Many contract attorneys like to overlap their projects seamlessly and may try to jump ship before it is over to catch the next project before it sails. Once again, don’t do it. The damage you’ll do to your working reputation isn’t worth it. This is not just for contract attorneys, the same goes for anyone in any profession. Do you think any client would be pleased if the person they hired left them in a lurch the moment a better assignment came along?

I have known people who became blacklisted from certain agencies because they left their project before it was over. Don’t expect to hear from the agency again anytime soon about upcoming projects if you do that. They will likely remove you from all future project consideration. Of course, the blacklist is agency and law firm specific. You can easily go work for another agency and law firm, but because the contract attorney world is so small, it is likely you will bump into the same law firm again in the future and find yourself regretting that you burned that particular bridge in the past.

Try to maintain good working relationships. I know there are some bad assignments out there with working conditions akin to that of working in a sweatshop, but from my experience, only a handful of projects are really that bad.

In the event that you do burn an agency by jumping ship and you find yourself blacklisted. Given the passage of time, it is sometimes possible to get back into the agency’s good graces. Remember, they need you for staffing purposes just as much as you need them for job leads. You just have to convince them by apologizing and assuring them that it was an isolated incident that won’t be repeated. Some agencies have been known to take people back. Just don’t make it a systematic practice.

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.