Friday, May 16, 2008

Revenge of the Temps

In February 2008, I wrote a post about temps entitled Attorneys Suitable for Everyday Use. It was one of the posts I was particularly pleased with at the time--and I was pleased to receive a very interesting comment on that post earlier this week. The full comment is as follows. My comments are interposed in brackets.

Begin Comment:

I quit my associate job a few years ago and have been temping ever since.

I love it and hope the pattern continues.

I work 3-4 months out of the year and then spend the rest of the time out of the US (where the local wage is much lower -- preferably by a factor of 3 or 4 times cheaper) doing what I want to do (e.g., ski instructor, language study, intensive yoga retreats in India, or hanging out on a beach enjoying life. [I had a number of friends in Europe who lived like this and loved it. Their philosophy was, "why work like a dog to retire early in your 50s and live on the beach, when you can do it right now? You might be dead before 50 for all you know.] In effect, legal temping has allowed me to do now what the average associate is planning to do when they retire at 40 or 50. [News flash: No one retires from law practice at 40. You may change careers, but you don't retire. And virtually no one retires at 50--and certainly no one I know.]

Moreover, every time I come back the temp salaries are higher and the market becomes more specialized. This is great for me, now I can make more money in a shorter period of time. [Law temping is certainly more lucrative than the teaching and table-waiting jobs my Eurofriends did in between their stints leaving in cheaper locales.] Additionally, the firms generally offer full time positions (litigation assistants) to temp attorneys who perform well. So, when I decide to go back to a career, I can get a job as a litigation assistant and then after a year or so, get an associate position at a mid-sized firm. Or, if I decide to go [and] open a law firm with a partner, temping allows one of the partners to work and fund the firm while the other one takes care of the clients. [The only downside with this approach to going back to a firm is that it is harder to get into blue-chip law firms from temping positions--although I have in fact seen it done. But if you don't want to do that to begin with, that's not really a downside, is it?]

Also, even though the salaries are lower than what an associate would make, you have to figure the associate is paying huge amount of taxes. By temping 3-4 months out of the year, I pay a lot less in taxes. [This point actually does not make much sense to me--you're still keeping more of the money, right? But I suppose the point is valid from a Laffer Curve perspective.]

I'm very happy as a temp attorney and hope the legal temping trend will continue. [I love happy endings, especially when they concern legal careers. Too often we end up griping about law careers--me included. It's nice to hear a happy story from a satisfied and fulfilled attorney. Thanks for sharing your story.]


Dee said...

Law temping hasn't quite hit normalcy here. I can see the attraction and if I could would probably try it. What a sense of freedom.

Robert said...

Professor Bowman,

I know this is off-topic but I was wondering if you would be posting blogs from Korea during the summer program?

While I am not going this summer, I'd like to read about the experiences you and my classmates enjoy. Hope you guys enjoy the trip!

rechtsberatung said...

Nice post

Anonymous said...

And this is exactly why I don't believe in universal health care or a more progressive system of social security than we already have.

I sure as hell would prefer to be doing something other that what I am. The thing is, I would dislike being dependent on a stranger even more.

At some point, this part-time ski instructor is going to break his leg. I'd say, "Those are the breaks."

If he cries, "Civilized countries have socialized medicine," I'd say, "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs". This jackass is squandering ability - which is fine - so long as he doesn't ask a damn thing from me. I'd love to be skiing right now; between school (paid my own way) and work, I've never had the chance to learn.

David Miller said...

I actually am currently working for a temp agency, and it seems ok. I guess this is perhaps a sign of the times? Most jobs are either temp to hire, etc. now...