The job market is shifting in law, and temporary workers have found themselves in the driver’s seat. Due to increased workload demands, British law firms could struggle to retain talent. 91% of lawyers surveyed said: “that in looking for a new job, they would rank having a more manageable caseload as a top priority”. This is an issue that is becoming more prevalent across the industry. In 2022, UK law firms advertised over 2,300 jobs for associates based in London due to difficulties in hiring permanent candidates. Employment rates are also going down in the UK, albeit gradually, due to a surge in self-employed workers. Clearly, it’s a candidate-driven workforce, and more lawyers are embracing the change, using the flexibility to further their careers.
If you find yourself looking to reenter the field of law, becoming a locum solicitor – or a self-employed lawyer working on a temporary or freelance contract – is a great way to reestablish yourself professionally. Of course, shifting from being a full-time permanent job to a freelance position is no easy task. LHH’s considerations for locum solicitors note a few questions you need to ask yourself regarding your potential clients, your worth, your locations, and your career. Have you done adequate research on the firm? Have you determined a rate that reflects your skills and experience? Finally, consider whether you will be present in a short-term or long-term capacity. If you have assessed the pros and cons and decided to dive in, allow us to tell you about the benefits of being a locum solicitor.
Optics and flexibility
Perhaps you’re looking to take time off from law to focus on your family, return to your studies, or simply pursue another passion in life – without creating a questionable gap in your resume. Unlike taking a gap year, temporary work is a great way to stay engaged in law and keep that ball rolling while carving time for other priorities. Locum solicitors could also enjoy enhanced work-life balance if working hours can be negotiated.
New experiences and specialties
In our post ‘Why Solicitors Should Look to Develop a Specialist Practice’, we talked about the advantages of zeroing in on a specific niche to quickly gain a track record and establish yourself as an authority. Let’s say you thrived in a specific field for years but have lost the spark, or you simply want to explore a deeper speciality within your current field of expertise. As a locum solicitor, you can apply your experience in an environment where you are the ‘newbie’ once more, which keeps you from resting on your laurels.
A 2021 Law Society of England and Wales report revealed that there are over 209,000 solicitors on the roll, a record high – which means differentiating yourself as a legal professional has become more important than ever. A locum role is a fantastic way for lawyers who are just starting out to immerse themselves in diverse and varied experiences. By making an informed decision based on on-ground practice rather than theory, you’re more likely to find the field that suits you best – paving the way for an accomplished career journey that truly stands out from the crowd.
If you have had your eye on a particular law firm, engaging on a freelance basis allows you to get a good feel of the firm’s organisational culture to see if you’re a good fit. You get a preview of how management runs the ship, whether or not high-performing staff are rewarded with growth opportunities, and how the team cooperates when working under pressure and on tight deadlines. If you don’t see yourself in the firm, your locum role allows you to walk away with considerably less difficulty. On the bright side, if working temporarily with the firm has only affirmed your desire to jump in full-time, you have the opportunity to show the firm what you can bring to the table. While it’s not guaranteed, your good work may open doors for regular employment in the future with your dream firm.