Contractors speak up!

Jill Rorem, Esq., is senior manager, legal staffing at Blackman Kallick ( Jill oversees the successful recruitment of attorneys, paralegals and contract legal professionals. Jill (and the Blackman team) staffs document reviews using qualified contract attorneys and thus, works with attorneys-in-transition daily. You can follow her at

My work life consists mainly of two things: developing business so we can land document reviews and keeping contractors happy so we can staff the reviews that come in. I personally think that these items go hand in hand. Our clients count on us for accurate and timely review of their documents. And, as I mentioned in last week’s post, without loyal reviewers it is hard, if not impossible, to give this service to our clients. As a result, we make sure to treat our contractors like gold.

In the staffing world, there are a variety of philosophies as to how best to treat a contractor – some inspiring and some a disgrace to this industry. I was recently reading a blog that discussed the idea of contract attorneys forming a union to regulate agency behavior and/or forming the contract attorney division of the ABA. Both seem like interesting ideas. In the mean time, individual contractors can take care of themselves and preserve the integrity of their current profession simply by not keeping quiet.

For those of you not familiar with the industry – contract attorneys are the quintessential “attorneys in transition.”Contractors are hired through agencies by law firms or corporations usually for document review. The work that contract attorneys do is imperative, regularly in the news and constantly evolving in complexity. Those hiring the contractors want to pay the lowest rate possible, but they also want bang for their buck! They may happily secure a low hourly rate for the contractors, but if in return they get inexperienced and/or below average reviewers due to the low rate, their review could go horribly wrong. Thus, clients want to be assured that they are hiring efficient reviewers, honest time trackers and smart people who are able to make complex decisions. Finally, whether they know it or not, they want people who respect the agency for whom they are working. Disgruntled and disloyal reviewers usually mean turbulence and turnover on document reviews. If the hiring law firm blows a deadline as a result, they can’t tell the judge, “But, I got the reviewers for such a low rate!”

My advice? If you are a contract attorney – speak up! Law firms and corporations need to know when you feel underpaid (because in most cases the agency can raise your rate without touching the client rate – see 8/23 post), when you are working in an agency review space that is make-shift and uncomfortable (I’ve recently heard of a space that violated fire codes and another that was moldy), when an agency misrepresents the workload on a project or when you are treated without dignity. I think these same clients want to hear about the agencies with good reputations and WHY, i.e., the ones that treat you well, pay you bonuses or benefits, bring you treats and pay you above market rates. In many instances, agency bids come out even and it is these factors that will be the tipping point if the client is mostly motivated by price. It will help keep the reputable agencies staffing and force the not so reputable agencies to improve their service to contractors (aka the “gold”).

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