How to Maximize the Work of Legal Project Professionals

By Jamy J. Sullivan, JD

If you’re in the market for legal talent, you aren’t alone. Nearly 6 in 10 lawyers surveyed for the Robert Half Legal State of Legal Hiring research report said their law firm or company plans to expand its legal teams in the next six months. What’s more, another recent survey of lawyers by our company found that 68% of law firms plan to increase their recruitment of first-year associates in the coming year — a threefold increase over 2017 numbers. 

Yet top legal talent can be hard to find. As a result, many firms are turning to project professionals for immediate access to the talent they need, and to build a more flexible staffing model — one that includes a blend of both full-time employees and specialized temporary workers, to address fluctuating caseloads. 

Hiring legal professionals on a project or consulting basis can provide your firm with the necessary experience and skill set no matter what the role — from file clerk to compliance analyst. But to get the most of their time and talents, you’ll need to do more than just let them in the front door. For best results, follow these six best practices. 

1. Work with a specialized staffing firm. When outsourcing to cover an immediate need, you have neither the time to search for the right individuals nor the luxury of an extended onboarding or training period. Recruiters who specialize in placing legal professionals will have a large database of potential candidates and know whether they’ve worked on similar cases or have specific practice area or industry experience. Be upfront with your recruiter about whether your need is temporary or you’d like to also evaluate the candidate for a potential full-time position 

2. Prepare for their arrival. Take care of all the little details before a temporary worker’s first day. This could include giving them an email address and login information for in-house systems. If they’ll be on-site, they’ll need a badge and building access. These may sound like trivial considerations but failing to prepare can give the worker a sense that your organization is disorganized — which is never a good way to begin an assignment.  

3. Give them an orientation. Even though first-rate project professionals don’t require hand-holding, an abbreviated version of the formal onboarding you provide full-time hires can make them feel welcome and more like a full-fledged member of the team. Start with an information session where you give an overview of the company and walk them through their assignment. Then introduce them to their new colleagues for the project.  

4. Get their early feedback. In addition to setting expectations and discussing the assignment’s scope, be sure to ask how contractors feel about what lies ahead. If you have outsourced them through a reputable staffing firm, they should be familiar with the various challenges your project could face, so take upfront advantage of their experience and expertise. 

5. Check in regularly. Stop by and ask interim staff about their progress and whether they have any issues or suggestions once they’ve been there awhile. Encourage them to reach out to you or another employee with questions.  

6. Don’t forget the exit process. At the end of the contract, be sure to offboard the temporary worker. This is more than just a time of transferring files and returning badges. During an exit interview, which would be less involved than the one you conduct with full-time employees, get feedback on how the project went and what suggestions they have for improving processes. 
Using temporary staff is an excellent way to quickly gain access to valuable legal expertise. Get the most out of this relationship by setting the right tone, from the very beginning until their last day.