Over the past decade, there has been strong and sustained growth in the use of interim lawyers. As this market has matured, we’ve uncovered a much wider set of use-cases for contracting interim lawyers – over and above the more common scenarios like parental leave covers.
As a global leader in providing solutions to in-house legal teams, we’ve been able to partner with thousands of in-house leaders and help them rethink how they manage their teams. Below are 7 examples of where clients are creatively using interim lawyers to boost the value of their legal function:
1) Managing peak times or large projects
Many in-house teams experience predictable peaks in their workloads. Often it focuses around the end of quarter and end of financial year events, where the legal department can become a bottleneck to the business. Flexing up your team during these crunchy times will help ensure smooth delivery of legal service to your organisation, without burnout or over-hiring permanent staff.
Sometimes peak workflows can be harder to predict, take for example a large-scale piece of litigation. Hiring a flexible lawyer (or teams of lawyers and paralegals) can be a smart way to manage these bumpy periods. Once the litigation ends, you can easily demobilise your team.
2) Navigating hiring freezes
During challenging economic situations, companies can sometimes implement hiring freezes, even if workload levels continue to increase. A compelling option for many legal teams is to engage an interim consultant, allowing them to expand the size and capabilities of the legal team without increasing headcount - the interim lawyer won't be on their payroll. Alternative legal service providers like LOD can assist legal teams to staff up without committing to permanent hires in an uncertain environment.
3) Covering internal secondments and appointments
A growing phenomenon for in-house lawyers is to take internal company secondments to an alternative business function to gain valuable experience and help progress their career. These shifts can leave in-house teams with an urgent need to backfill roles for short to medium periods. An interim lawyer can provide the cover you need, for the time period that works for you.
4) Guaranteeing cost certainty
When workloads increase and legal teams are under high-cost pressure, the historical options have been expensive or difficult: hire a new permanent lawyer, ask current members to take on more work, or engage external counsel. Hiring a lawyer can be costly when you add up the recruitment fees, the time spent training, annual salary, bonus, benefits, sick leave and insurance. External counsel rates continue to rise as companies' budgets continue to fall. With an interim provider, you only pay for the days the consultant works, and are able to set budgets to manage your legal spend. This cost certainty and effectiveness also come with flexibility – end the secondment, decrease or increase hours, or add an additional person on short notice.
5) Agility during economic uncertainty
When you’re operating in volatile economic circumstances, the ability to control your cost levers without lag is vital. As there appears to be no slowing down in the growth of our “VUCA” world (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity), it tracks that flexible resourcing will continue to grow. Trust and flexibility are powerful antidotes to uncertainty and interim legal experts can give you the cover you need, without locking in longer term costs.
6) Filling specialist expertise
The work of in-house lawyers is typically wide-ranging and when you receive a challenging and specialist area of legal work, you might send that to external counsel. But what happens when you have a large volume of specialist work? Rather than accept the high cost of external counsel, in-house leaders have a newer option – hire the right specialist in-house for the length of the project. ALSP's have subject matter experts from data privacy to internal investigations to employment experts who can step in on an interim basis, freeing up the core legal team to focus on what they do best – being a solutions provider to the business.
7) Building the business case for a new role
Sometimes, you’ll need to test the waters before committing to a full-time permanent hire. Not to test the waters with a person, but rather a probationary period for the role itself. Hiring a flexible resource can give you enough time to test the value of adding a role into your team, without the longer-term commitment. Rather than either being lumped with an unnecessary role, or perhaps worse, never testing whether your team would benefit from a new role, hire an interim lawyer who fits the profile you’re after. If it works, fantastic! If not, it’s not a big deal.
It’s more important than ever to think creatively about how you resource your in-house legal team. With greater complexity and volatility, the smart use of flexible legal solutions is a powerful weapon in the in-house legal department’s arsenal. Don’t unintentionally limit yourself by thinking too narrowly about hiring interim legal and risk professionals. If any of these scenario seem like they might help, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us.
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