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WEEKLY RECRUITER SPEAK

The Problem with Contract Work [by Jennifer McKee, Esq.] This week, our recruiters discuss the problems that can arise in an attorney’s search for a permanent position when his or her resume contains contract work - and, surprisingly, there are quite a few.

We often hear from attorneys with whom

Unfortunately, top law firms tend to look

cumstances, highly qualified attorneys have

we are working that they are contemplating

down on contract work simply because it

no choice but to do contract work while they

doing contract work while they look for per-

is contract work. This is true even if a firm

look for a permanent position; financial reali-

manent employment. Generally, these are at-

hires contract attorneys; partners and hiring

ties may dictate it. But if you have the means

torneys who have worked for a while at a law

coordinators generally view the contract

to avoid contract work, you will increase your

firm, but have been laid off or have relocated.

attorneys they hire as not up to par for per-

chances of making a lateral move to a top

They are thinking about doing contract work

manent hiring. Moreover, firms know that,

firm. Moreover, if you must do contract work,

for one or more of the following reasons:

with rare exceptions, contract work does not

try to limit the number of firms and projects

provide the kind of stimulating work that will

with which you become involved. This will

• They need the money that contract work

allow an attorney to maintain or upgrade his

lessen the likelihood of conflicts with the

will provide to support themselves during

or her legal skills; the work often is rote and

firm that you hope to join on a permanent

their job search;

unchallenging.

basis.

• They believe that contract work will allow them to keep up their skills; and/or

Thus, if a hiring contact at a prestigious law

• They believe that firms will view their

firm to which you are applying sees that you

contract work favorably, or at least neutrally,

are doing-or have done-contract work, they

when evaluating their application for perma-

are less likely to be interested in you. This

nent employment.

may not be fair, but it is the reality.

Many of these attorneys are surprised to

Another problem with contract work is that

learn that we advise our candidates to avoid

it increases the likelihood that you will have

doing contract work if at all possible.

a conflict with the firm to which you have applied for a permanent position. Conflicts

Why do we advise against contract work for

checks are a routine and necessary part

our candidates? Because it makes them less

of any law firm hiring decision. While each

marketable.

firm’s conflicts check procedure varies somewhat, you generally should be prepared

The attorneys with whom we work are not

to provide a list of all clients for whom you

average; they are highly qualified, with

have performed legal work in the past three

strong academic credentials and excellent

to five years. This includes contract work.

law firm experience. They are not seeking

How unfortunate it would be if a firm was

average positions with average firms; they

unable to make you an offer because you did

are looking to take their careers to the high-

some temporary contract work for a client

est level with a top law firm. The positions to

that has a conflict with one of the firm’s

which they aspire are highly competitive. The

clients! (Obviously, the chances of contract

firms receive scores of resumes from stellar

work causing a conflict increase exponen-

candidates, and are able to be very selec-

tially if you work as a contract attorney for

tive in deciding whom to interview and hire.

more than one firm.)

Therefore, a candidate’s resume should be as “clean” and compelling as possible.

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Of course, we understand that in certain cir-


The Problem with Contract Work