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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.