Significant shifts in the nature of the workplace, technological advances and the increasingly diverse work being undertaken by legal professionals have led to the growing presence of contractors within both in house teams and private practices. While the perception of ‘the interim’ is one that has been evolving for decades, the role has increased in favourability significantly over the past ten years.
Advances in technology and a shift towards agile working have allowed interim professionals to pick up work swiftly and efficiently, and the rising popularity of remote working means that in many cases contractors don’t even need to be in the same office as their permanent counterparts. The increasingly diverse nature of the work being undertaken both in-house and in private practices is calling for extremely specific knowledge, which can be utilized on a short term basis through the use of contractors. The recruitment freezes that followed the financial crisis also contributed to the expedited shift towards the increase in contractual hires experienced in the last decade.
Traditionally many legal professionals saw interim roles as substandard to permanent positions, a stop gap between roles, or a point of re-entry into the profession. However for many lawyers contracting is now a career choice, and one that can be particularly lucrative. Not only can it provide legal professionals with the opportunity to gain a wealth of valuable experience in a comparatively shorter space of time, but also expand the breadth of their specialism.
While the profession as a whole makes strides towards agile working, the flexibility of interim positions is also a significant draw for many. The legal arena is known for its long hours and demanding roles, however working as a contractor can allow professionals to establish a more effective work/life balance. The shifting demographics of the UK mean that soon caring for elderly relations will be just as prevalent a concern as caring for young children, so it’s likely that flexibility will become a growing concern for working professionals.
Employers are also coming to realise the benefits of interim hires, both in-house and private practices are utilizing contractors with specialist knowledge to bridge skills gaps, and make the business more efficient without the associated permanent headcount costs. There is also an emerging trend of contract hires being given additional projects or even offered a permanent position.
Despite the relative stability of the current economy, interim positions remain prevalent, with organisations continuing to utilize the specialist knowledge and extensive experience of contractors, and support their permanent employees with flexible interim counterparts. As the perception of contractors continues to shift and filter from top to mid-tier firms and businesses to smaller organisations, it’s likely that the number of positions available to experienced interims will continue to increase, an incredibly positive sign for anyone considering a moving toward contractual roles.
In the ever evolving environment that is the Legal market we are seeing more and more clients contact us to discuss the practicalities of interim and contract staff. Whether this be due to impending maternity cover, working around headcount freezes or simply to augment their team during particular busy projects, the message is clear. Working on an interim basis is a viable option for candidates in the legal profession and many are making a successful career of it. In this candidate driven market can employers afford to not move with the times and explore interim as an option?