Saturday, December 08, 2007

Contract Attorney Blog

I recently became aware of a relatively new blog called My Attorney Blog. It's written by a contract attorney in Washington, D.C., and it provides an on-the-ground view of life as a contract attorney. As one post on the blog points out, there aren't many blogs written by contract attorneys for contract attorneys, so this is a nice resource on the subject. For those unfamiliar with the term "contract attorney," it means a lawyer who is hired on a per-project basis. When the project is done, the lawyer does not stay with the firm. In essence, it is temp work.

On the one hand, this might sound like not very attractive work, and it might not be your cup of tea. The work stream is unpredictable (see this post), and the work is not always terribly glamorous (see here). And a commonly asked (and unfair) question is, "why don't you get a real job?" (see here) So why might someone consider a career as a contract attorney--either as a stop-gap option, or as a more strategic career choice?

The value of the stop-gap option is pretty easy to figure out. Jobs are scarce, and food and rent cost money. But contract attorney work also can be a good strategic move, as well as a good move from a work-life balance point of view. You have the option (assuming you have the money) to say no to an unattractive project. If you want experience in a particular area of the law that uses contract attorneys on a regular basis--such as large-scale litigation--then contract attorney work is a way to gain such experience. Also, sometimes contract attorneys get hired permanently by the firms or companies that use them on a temp basis; I have friends who have successfully gone that route.

I also think that working as a contract attorney can be a way to break into an unfamiliar market. What if you recently graduated from a regional law school and want to move to an entirely different area of the country, but have few or no contacts there? Contract attorney work can enable you to make the move. You can pay the bills, get situated in your new location, and try to make some contacts. It might not be easy, but it is virtually impossible to make contacts when you are located thousands of miles away. It takes more than a little courage to make that sort of leap, and there is no guarantee of success--but if you don't make the leap, then failure is guaranteed.

I have added My Attorney Blog to my blogroll and recommend it as a good source of anecdotal insight into the contract attorney world.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Contract work seems to be the new frontier..it's interesting to finally read a blogger on the subject who isn't so negative about this profession.

Anonymous said...

http://temporaryattorney.blogspot.com

Joseph Miller said...

While contract attorney work can be lucrative, the work is often limited to document review, which is very easy to offshore or automate.

Lawyers considering taking contract work should consider the long term effects that such limited exposure can have on their future career prospects and continue to agressively pursue full-time opportunities, pro bono work, and bar committee memberships.

Gregory W. Bowman said...

Joseph, those are very good points to bear in mind. Anyone considering contract attorney work should definitely consider them. Thanks for the comment. Greg

Angela said...

The contract workforce is the wave of the future...in every industry. Look at what's happening to the economy - let's face it, your job wouldn't be stable even if you were working at a "REAL" job. At least as a contract attorney, you're doing it on your own terms. There are companies that exist now that can offer you all the benefits of working for a corporation, while still giving you complete freedom to find your own clients and choose your own type of work. I work with MBO Partners, and not only do I have access to group healthcare benefits and retirement savings, but I can deduct all my business expenses and take advantage of the deductions immediately instead of waiting til the end of the year. They also invoice my clients for me - can you say time saver? I honestly feel much more secure in my employment situation with this arrangement, and still going out and finding my own clients and projects, than I would right now working for someone else!

Gregory W. Bowman said...

Angela, thanks for your comment. I hear what you are saying, and I am very glad you feel empowered by your career choices. Outsourcing is a key characteristic of the modern job force.

For the record, though, my job is not a fake one. Not directly market driven, no. But academic is not a synonym for "not real," or I would not be on this, my own very empowering career path.

Angela said...

Gregory - I certainly did not mean to imply that your job in academia is fake! I apologize if I offended you. I have tremendous respect for the world of academia and my dream was once to be a professor. Working in the field that you do, you tend to have a little more freedom over your schedule and much more job security once you've earned tenure than folks in other industries do. I'm hoping that my contract career at some point allows me the freedom to pursue a Ph.D. When I said "REAL" job I was referring more to the dead-end jobs that people take as a means to earn a paycheck but receive no personal fulfillment for. I should have chosen a better word or at least provided some clarification.

Gregory W. Bowman said...

Angela, no worries. I appreciate your comments and I look forward to hearing more from you in the future. Best, Greg

Kimberly Alderman said...

I also have a contract attorney blog at http://contractattorneys.wordpress.com, which is in a similar vein.

supernikita said...

Contract attorneys, come and chat at docreview.us.
Also there is a forum, where you can leave messages.

attorneymama said...

I was recently terminated by my firm, but offered a contract position with one particular partner instead of an outright termination. This link will be a good asset as I make a decision that will have a huge impact on my future. Thanks.

Liz said...

In a larger market, contract work is a huge ding-trigger on a resume. And I have heard the rumor of "friends of friends" who were hired by the firm, but given the general level of the work, I would question a firm that hires someone with solely this experience.

It's nice that you're putting a positive spin on the profession, but people who accept this work should be aware of the risks. Participation on a large litigation project WILL disqualify you for more lucrative or prestigious jobs, and it will NOT provide you with any useful legal experience.

Some contract attorneys - the ones who have real experience - actually become more like temps at a law firm, and that might be a better route to go. But it's almost irresponsible to urge new attorneys to consider contract work as a viable option without pointing out the damage to their future reputation.

carol said...

thank you for setting up this blog. i would love to do contract attorney work,a s my schedule with 3 kids, one of whom has disabilities, necessitates flexibility. Hwoever, other than doc. review, how does one go about obtaining contract work in Washington, DC?

Thanks for any insights you may have

workhard said...

HI.. nice post



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