Staffing agencies might not be the first area to look, but they are always looking for high quality people to assist their clients (law firms and companies). What does this mean for you? Plenty of opportunities to gain interview experience and expand your network.
Many new attorneys are using staffing agencies to quickly get experience and a paycheck. So this type of work is quickly becoming the norm.
Overview of Staffing Agencies And Your Process
Staffing agencies are companies that find quality workers to fill positions at companies with a focus on temporary projects, or temp to permanent. Employers like staffing agencies because the employer can quickly scale a project as needed. For you, staffing agencies are a wonderful resource for interview experience, and a paycheck. Here’s how it works. When you apply to a staffing agency, your chances are very high that they will call you back for an interview (Remember, they are constantly looking for new potential as their existing pool is either being put on projects, or getting hired). Once you receive that call, if you need to go in for a formal interview treat it like one! Doing so will not only give them a good first impression, but also prepare you for when you get call backs for other interviews as a result of your job search.
Once placed into their system, they will contact you with any new positions or projects that open up (Tip: Check their websites for positions you may be qualified for, and let your agent know if you find one). Notice for staffing agencies can be extremely quick (under 24-hours), so be prepared as needed. If you sign up for multiple staffing agencies (Recommended) make sure you let the other agents know how long the expected job will take, and when you will be available again for work (be proactive, your staffing agent will appreciate not having to call you, only to find out you are unavailable).
How are Staffing Agencies Compensated, and How Does it Affect Your Compensation?
Staffing agencies are compensated by the employer, and charge a percentage markup for your services. These fees are negotiated between the staffing agency and the employer and can vary based off of location, type of work, etc. As such, because they charge a percentage markup, they have a vested interest in getting you the most competitive rate possible.
Now, when it comes to staffing agencies and your own compensation one of the biggest questions you may have is “Should I ask for more?” It really depends. If you are getting an offer, someone thought highly enough of you to offer you that job, so think of it like a negotiation. Ask yourself:
- Is this the first project I am being staffed for? (Do you have a good track record)
- Do I have a good reputation with my staffing agent? (Will they be willing to try and sell your skills harder)
- Did I have an opportunity to interview with the temp employers? (Did you have the opportunity to pitch the ultimate decision maker)
If any of the above applies to you, and you think you have leverage, then go ahead and ask. The first staffing job I took was for contract review and analysis. Despite not having any track record with my staffing agency, I had the opportunity to pitch the ultimate decision maker. I worked hard enough to impress him that I was able to get a few more dollars per hour (remember $1/hour = $2,080/year, not including overtime).
Who are the main staffing companies for lawyers?
There are a ton of staffing agencies out there, but there are three main staffing agencies. It is important to build relationships with both national and local agencies as each offer their own competitive advantage. Local staffing agency may have close ties with some of the law firms, and access to jobs the national agencies do not have. On the other hand, the national agencies have access to a much wider network of potential employers. Here’s a list of the big 3 staffing agencies:
- Special Counsel: Special Counsel is a staffing agency that is focused on the legal industry and getting jobs for attorneys (and actually the first I used). Like other staffing agencies, they also provide a full salary guide based off of their data (available for download here). You can upload your resume here, or send it to any one of their locations here.
- Robert Half: Robert Half works across five verticals including legal and operates 330 locations worldwide. It also provides a full resource center that includes interviewing guides for managers (Click here to see how an employer conducts the interview). They also release an annual salary report (available here). You can upload your resume directly to them here.
- Randstad: Randstad operates over 900 locations, and provides to over 100,000 individuals each week. Within the legal space, Randstad keeps an up-to-date breakdown of legal jobs available at any given time (available here). You can upload your general resume here.
Your Relationship With Your Staffing Agent
Lastly, your staffing agent is someone who is going to be your advocate, so be one for them. Their goal is to get you staffed on a project, and hopefully at some point place you in a permanent position. Building up your relationship with them is critical towards getting new opportunities. After I finished up my first temporary position, I continually received calls and follow ups from my agent because I had built up that reputation for being reliable and dependable (even after I landed a permanent job).
Recruiters are similar to staffing agencies, except they focus on permanent positions. Recruiters and Talent Firms are often used where an employer pays a recruiter a markup fee to find quality talent. As a result, recruiters are focused on finding a good match between employee/employer, and as a result can be a really good way to grow your network. When looking at a legal recruiter, make sure they are the right match for you (are they serving the market that you want to be in). It doesn’t make sense if you are an associate, and a recruiter is serving upper level partners. For further reading, check out FindLaw’s article on selecting the right legal recruiter.
A recruiter can be a great resource to help bring down the amount of time it takes to find a job and help negotiate salaries (remember, similar to staffing agencies above, treat them like you would a potential employer. The more you shine with them, the higher they are to recommend you to a potential employer). Also, once you get a job (even if it is not with that recruiter), make sure you maintain your relationship with them. It may be that a few years down the road you want to move on, having that preexisting relationship with the recruiter can help you make that move.
Note, when looking at a recruiter think about what you bring to their portfolio of prospective employees. One thing to keep in mind for recruiters is that it is difficult to place law students within the top firms because these firms already have formalized first-year associate programs.
Who are the players?
American Lawyer Media maintains a directory of legal recruiters (here) to help you find one more in your market. I’ve included 3 of the major recruiting firms below.
- BCG Attorney Search: BCG Attorney search is generally focused on associates with 1-2 years of experience and above. However, they have a vast collection of over 1440 articles written by their recruiters. They also have a great set of resources if you are a law student, associate, or partner.
- Kinney Recruiting: Does provide some jobs for entry level staffing, but also focused
- Lateral Link: Lateral Link focuses on graduates from America’s top law schools, as well as former practicing attorneys with major firm