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.
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.]