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Valparaiso Univ. Law School

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Friday, October 14, 2005

An Increase in the Number of "Contract Attorneys"

Law.com reports that, increasingly, the nation's largest 250 law firms are turning to temporary attorneys -- "contract attorneys" -- to wade through seemingly infinite piles of discovery documents.  The article explains:

Firms commonly bring in contract attorneys through agreements with staffing agencies that do much of the screening for them. Firms generally charge the client by the hour, with a markup for what they pay the temp agency.

With growing frequency, however, corporate clients themselves are taking bids from staffing agencies and guiding the selection of contract attorneys who will work with law firms, said Robert Singer, former executive director at Weil, Gotshal & Manges of New York, who in August became chief executive officer of De Novo Legal, a staffing company in New York.

In addition, he said that more corporate counsel are supplementing their own staffs with contract work.

The firms report that the "greatest advantage to the arrangements is saying goodbye to the extra labor -- and their wages -- when the job is finished."  Some contract attorneys say that they like the freedom of choosing when to work, or the ability to supplement income when solo practice is slow.

The firms hand down large discovery-related tasks to contract lawyers -- an "unwelcome" task for most associates.  This arrangement provokes the question: what are first year associates doing these days?

Moreover, the additon of contract attorneys creates another tier in the hierarchy of attorney labor at these law firms, which raises issues of employee "integration."

[Meredith R. Miller]

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