Contract staffing affords law firms and departments the flexibility to fill gaps, increase productivity and scale up and down as needed. Watch for ALSPs to grow in importance in 2023.
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Anyone seeking evidence of the cyclical nature of the legal market need only compare year-end 2021 with year-end 2022. During the former, law firms and corporate legal teams were in the throes of surging demand that set off a hiring frenzy pitting employers against one another in the war for talent. Attorneys had the upper hand as they decided which of multiple attractive offers to accept, while many firms pushed salaries and bonuses to unprecedented heights. Conversely, at year-end 2022, some of these same firms and corporations — faced with waning demand, rising expenses and shrinking profits — began laying off lawyers or weighing the possibility.
Staffing decisions in 2023 will be difficult to make and to get just right. Striking an ideal balance of skills, capacity, quality, associate satisfaction and profitability is no easy feat.
How Contract Staffing Arrangements Address Each Challenge
Following are three areas where tapping into contract attorneys will be essential in 2023.
1. Addressing hot-button issues of the day
Post-pandemic litigation, bankruptcies, market ups and downs, and a host of other issues are helping to shape an unprecedented legal landscape that requires great diversity of talent. Who could have anticipated the number and depth of lawsuits spurred by headline-making acquisitions? Or the explosion of financial investigations following the upsets in global financial markets?
The fallout of high-profile cases such as these, along with the steady flow of cases in SaaS, GDPR, M&A, employment and other areas, will continue to place talent demands on law firms in the coming months. And while fulfilling these demands with internal resources is tough for fully staffed organizations, it is nearly impossible for those facing budget cuts and layoffs.
ALSPs are filling this void by connecting firms in all types of circumstances with contract lawyers. Being able to handpick attorneys with niche experience and skillsets on an as-needed basis can be quite valuable, as it immediately expands a firm’s capabilities and bandwidth in response to client needs.
2. Keeping head count low and costs manageable
Even where demand has diminished, there is still plenty of work to go around. Contract staffing offers a means of ensuring the work gets done with fewer internal staff members and at a lower cost. Appropriate vetting by the ALSP ensures that contract personnel supporting the internal team have the capabilities to produce a high-quality work product, while the lower hourly rates of these individuals help keep the budget in check.
Contract staffing can be particularly beneficial when a quick scale-up is called for — for example, an M&A deal that requires intensive due diligence upfront, followed by HSR filings and other documentation requirements, or a financial fraud investigation that necessitates the formation of a team committed to addressing compliance issues. Contract staffing offers a viable solution for bolstering capacity for as long as additional hands and expertise are needed.
3. Relieving overextended teams
Whether due to associates being laid off or making personal decisions to switch jobs in recent months, pared-down teams can find themselves overburdened with work. We’ve all seen this scenario play out before, as burnout during the pandemic drove hordes of attorneys to run for the doors. Firms that do not want mental exhaustion or damaged morale to take another toll are working with ALSPs to delegate routine work to contract attorneys so that internal lawyers can work exclusively on designated assignments.
Once the cycle comes back around and firms look to rehire attorneys for permanent positions, ALSPs can offer a pool of talent open to temp-to-perm assignments. In fact, layoffs across law firms and corporations have freed some highly talented lawyers to seek contract work. Many are as eager as employers are to engage in temp-to-perm arrangements since it gives both parties time to gauge compatibility before making a long-term commitment.
Access to contract attorneys can be important in good times; it is absolutely critical in uncertain times.
The work needs to get done. Having the right expertise is vital. And budgets are always, always looming overhead. ALSPs can provide staffing solutions that make law firms and legal departments more responsive, nimble and profitable. Watch for their role to grow in importance in 2023.
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