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Temp in the Legal Industry

Temp in the Legal Industry

By Paul Greenberg, Monster Contributing Writer

Our increasingly litigious society is carving a niche for temporary legal professionals, from paralegals and other legal support staff to attorneys, to help busy law offices cope with mounting caseloads. Do you have the skills needed for temping in the legal industry?

What It Takes

Who are the most attractive candidates? “The bulk of all the temporary positions we handle involve document review, whether it be antitrust or litigation, so it’s important to have experience with this in a large firm or corporate legal department,” says Andrew Jewel, vice president of national operations for Hudson Legal. “Additionally, if you are familiar with electronic discovery, you should highlight the particular e-discovery review tools you have used.”

Be sure to consider the following factors when evaluating your fit as a legal temp:

  • • Temporary legal staffers should have experience working in a private attorney’s office, law firm or corporate legal department. However, recent law school grads might benefit from a temporary position as a paralegal while waiting to take the bar exam.
  • • Up-to-date computer skills are a must. Paralegals and attorneys will be more easily placed if they are versed in the use of Westlaw, the most common legal research tool.
  • • The ability to adapt to new personalities and disparate work environments will ease the way between temporary assignments.

Sign Up with an Agency

If your skills and experience fit the above criteria and you feel ready for the challenge, the next step is locating an appropriate temporary staffing agency. Cynthia Dale, who has worked as a temporary legal secretary in London, Los Angeles and New York, stresses the importance of having a strong relationship with an agency. “You need an agency that is willing to listen, and when you find such an agency, you must be very clear about your own skills and expertise,” she says. “Never exaggerate your abilities, because it will come back to haunt you. Instead, get yourself up to speed in the areas that will most likely help you get hired.”

And be prepared for some rigorous prescreening before you even have an opportunity to interview with the agency. You are probably going to be questioned in detail about your specific work experience and reasons for seeking legal temp work. Be prepared to sell yourself to the agency just as you would to a prospective employer. Moreover, the more detailed you are about your abilities and goals, the easier it will be for you and the agency to work toward finding an appropriate position.

For example, if you’re looking for a temporary attorney position, Jewel recommends highlighting where you’re admitted to the bar and whether you’re a member in good standing. “Including where you’re admitted helps us expedite our background check process ,” he says. Jewel also likes to see the number of years of experience as well as number of large projects worked on, all in an easy-to-read resume that includes bullet points instead of large paragraphs.

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Also, be honest with the agency about any weaknesses you have in interviewing skills or job searching techniques. Many agencies will offer coaching in these areas.

The Most Lucrative Opportunities

You’re apt to find more jobs available for legal secretaries than for other positions. While paralegals can often clear their desks in advance of a short leave or vacation, attorneys generally cannot properly run the office for long without a skillful legal secretary.

Still, there are abundant temporary opportunities for paralegals and attorneys. Each is often brought in for assistance on specific projects or in the preparation stages for important trials or litigation.

According to Devry Shuart of Shuart & Associates, there is also ample opportunity to temp in the legal industry as a receptionist, an IT professional, a human resources professional, an accountant or as a court runner. “The jobs are definitely there, but you should still be sure to come in with a well-written resume formatted for emailing, and be prepared, no matter which type of job, to prove your grammatical and computer skills,” says Shuart.

This article originally appeared on Monster.com.


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