Just a few years ago, temporary staffing was used on a relatively limited basis in law firms and corporate legal departments. But then the recession happened, and all that changed. Firms had to get leaner to survive, and more of them turned to contract workers when they didn't have the budget to hire new full-time lawyers and legal professionals – or realized that adding a full-time employee for every need wasn't really the best solution anyway.
The business environment for law firms has improved, but many companies continue to lean on temporary staffing, particularly to relieve employee stress caused by an overwhelming workload. Here's how you can best utilize temporary staffing to alleviate the pressure on your full-time professionals:
Know when it's time to bring in help
When you're in the midst of a super-size project or assignment, it can be easy to lose track of the workload your employees are handling. But if you're seeing signs of burnout, like increased absenteeism and rushed, incomplete work from even your top performers, it's time to consider temporary staffing.
This can happen when you're in the late stages of preparation for a trial, or you have a huge document review or eDiscovery project that needs to get done fast. Contract workers are often the best solution. They can usually start right away, taking over the most time-consuming assignments from your overstretched employees.
Let someone else handle the hiring
A legal temporary staffing agency will handle the recruiting and screening process for you, along with the payment details and the tax-related paperwork involved in hiring contingent workers.
Just make sure you hire the right firm. It should have a strong reputation and a deep pool of experienced legal professionals. It should also specialize in legal placements and, ideally, in your line of business. The best firms guarantee their candidates and provide a replacement if someone doesn't work out. A staffing firm should also never hesitate to provide you with its fee structure in writing.
Set them up for success
If the contract workers you hire spend a lot of time asking you questions about their assignments, it can increase your workload and defeat the purpose of hiring them in the first place. So before a temporary worker's first day, designate a workplace and stock it with all the tools needed to do the job. Then, write up a plan that addresses the scope of the project, the expected completion date, and any necessary instructions for their quick reference after you debrief them.
Turning to temporary staffing also relieves another major source of stress: employee job instability. When you use contract workers, you don't have to subject your staff to the anxiety-producing cycles of hiring and layoffs that otherwise might happen as the demands of the business ebb and flow. And that alone might be enough to make your employees breathe a sigh of relief and relax.