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HIRING

Use contract employees and temporary workers to solve difficult staffing issues

If your legal practice is like most, it’s difficult to make a case for adding full-time office staff.

And it’s no wonder. Full-time employee benefits, including Social Security, 401k/403b contribution, disability insurance, health insurance, pension plan, and paid time off, add approximately 40 percent to an employee’s salary, according to Salary.com, a leading provider of salary information.

In theory, that 40 percent per full-time employee could pay the salary of a part-time employee. But it doesn’t work that way. Meanwhile, there’s only so much money and it only stretches so far.

Yet, even when armed with knowledge and a greater understanding of dollars and cents, the fact remains that your office requires people to handle the workload. So, what’s a law office manager to do?

Benefits of contract employees

One option is to hire a contract employee. Contractors, also called freelancers, bring skills and expertise to the workplace without the high overhead.

Because a contract employee is self-employed, she or he pays her or his own Social Security and other benefits. You essentially save the 40 percent or more you’d be paying in benefits.

Sounds almost too good to be true, right? It is.

Here’s the thing. A contractor has to pay all expenses, including Social Security, health insurance, retirement savings, and so forth, out of pocket; therefore, the rate she or he charges has to consider, if not include, these costs.

Still, when you compare what you pay a full-time employee (salary plus 40 percent) to the rate a contract employee charges, you may come out ahead financially.

As important, by working with a contractor you can hire a person who has the skills you require without making a long-term commitment.

A contractor arrangement is ideal for special projects and tasks that fall outside the scope of typical office activity. For example, launching or re-launching your practice’s website might benefit from a contractor’s expertise. Similarly, a major system conversion may temporarily increase the workload and require project management assistance, as well as other staff.

Of course, in order to contract with a freelancer you must first find an individual with the skills you require. Fortunately, this shouldn’t be difficult. There are numerous job boards specifically aimed at connecting employers with skilled freelance workers, including FlexJobs, Guru, and Elance, among others.

Benefits of temporary employees

Although a contract employee may indeed be a temporary worker, the term “temporary employee” or “temp” usually refers to an individual with whom an employer makes a work arrangement through an employment agency specializing in temporary assignments.

Indeed, the arrangement is usually not with the individual but with the staffing agency.

Staffing agencies, such as Robert Half Legal, Legal E, Kelly Services, and others, place skilled workers in all kinds of law office jobs, including clerical, financial, and human resource positions.

The requirements of the job will dictate what a practice will pay for an individual’s services. The staffing agency sets the rates, which includes its fee.

Where you pay a contract employee directly, temp workers are paid through the agency for whom they work. Your practice becomes the agency’s client.

Knowing what you require

Before approaching a freelancer with the intention of entering into a contractor arrangement or contacting a staffing agency to hire a temporary worker, it’s important to determine what role the individual you seek will play.

Job responsibilities are a given, but you should also ask, and answer, these questions:

  • How long do you expect the assignment to last?
  • How many hours per week are required?
  • What is the work schedule?
  • Is there any flexibility with regard to scheduling?
  • Can the job tasks be performed from a remote location?
  • Does the initial assignment include the possibility of additional work?
  • Is there a possibility that the arrangement will lead to a full-time, permanent position?

A busy legal practice often requires additional staff—for special projects, to fill in for vacationing employees, to assume the job responsibilities of employees on medical leave, and sometimes simply because a heavy workload necessitates additional support.

Today’s contractors and temporary employees have a wide range of skills. They can help you get almost any job done, and make your job a little easier.


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