Innovative Ways to Leverage Flexible Legal Talent

September 21, 2023

Innovative Engagement Strategies for Flexible Legal Talent

In today’s dynamic legal landscape, flexible legal talent has emerged as a transformative solution that offers adaptability and efficiency for corporate legal departments. The appeal of flexible legal talent lies in its capacity to furnish agile solutions to a diverse array of ever-evolving business challenges. In this article, we delve into the numerous scenarios in which flexible legal talent can enhance team performance and explore innovative ways flexible legal talent can be leveraged to boost operational efficiency.

What is Flexible Legal Talent?

Flexible legal talent refers to a workforce model that involves engaging attorneys and other legal professionals on a temporary or project-specific basis rather than hiring them as full-time employees (FTEs). These attorneys are not employees of the company or law firm that has engaged them. Rather, they are independent contractors or employees of an alternative legal service provider like Latitude. As such, these legal professionals are typically hired for a defined duration – which could be a few weeks, months, or years – to fill a gap in a company’s existing team or to work on a particular project.

Utilizing flexible legal talent allows corporate legal departments to tap into a broad pool of attorneys with diverse skills and experiences to quickly scale up or down their in-house team based on current workload or business realities and in a cost-effective manner that does not require adding a FTE and the associated costs (e.g., salary, bonus, benefits) to their budget.

Established Practices for Utilizing Flexible Legal Talent

As evidenced by the accelerated growth of ALSPs, including specialized attorney staffing companies, corporate legal department leaders are increasingly recognizing the benefit of maintaining an ongoing relationship with a legal staffing company, much like they do with outside law firms. The advantage in building and maintaining partner relationships with attorney staffing companies is that the legal department has access to quick responses for talent needs and challenges with various talent solutions.

Over the last twenty years, corporate legal departments have increasingly relied upon flexible legal talent to navigate several common business obstacles.

1. Scaling the team rapidly during a temporary workload surge.

Sometimes we see upticks in team workload coming, and other times they are sudden and unrelenting. It’s not always realistic to push through crunch times, especially if your team is already at capacity and adding more work to their plates could push them into burnout or leaving altogether. Engaging an experienced contract attorney to help shoulder the workload can allow you to absorb the additional work seamlessly, continue to provide excellent and timely service to your internal business clients, and ensure that you are protecting your permanent team from burn-out. And because the contract attorney works on a flexible basis, once the surge is over, they (and their costs) go away.

2. Covering leaves of absence.

Hiring a contract attorney to cover a leave of absence for a full-time employee ensures seamless continuity of client services and ongoing matters, preventing any disruptions that could arise from the absence of a key team member.

3. Augmenting your team during a hiring freeze.

Demand doesn’t halt, even if the legal team does not have approval to fill a vacancy (or add a much-needed new position) with a permanent hire. Bringing in an experienced attorney on a contract basis provides legal teams with a valuable infusion of legal expertise to manage the workload, without overhead costs of hiring a full-time employee. So, you get the work done, and your CFO is happy that you did it without adding headcount.

4. Bring in subject matter expertise.

There are numerous former Big Law firm and in-house pedigreed attorneys with highly specialized experience in numerous practice areas – from high demand to even the most niche practice areas (e.g., commercial real estate, data privacy, ERISA/executive compensation, FERC, M&A) who choose to work on a contract basis. Many highly experienced and credentialed attorneys choose flex work for a variety of reasons and can broaden a company’s bench of in-house subject-matter experts. Hiring flexible talent for such needs not only broadens the available talent pool, but also allows the team to cost-effectively gain subject matter expertise, assess the team’s need for that position permanently, or fill in a gap that may only require part-time focus each week.

Foundationally, these examples share a common thread: providing temporary support to fill a gap or manage a new need quickly, without the resource investment required to recruit, hire, and onboard an individual full-time. As a result, they are highly effective ways to enhance operational efficiency, team performance, and client service.

Innovative Ways to Engage Flexible Legal Talent

We have placed hundreds of contract attorneys in engagements like the four examples above. And in recent years, we have seen corporate legal departments continue to expand and innovate their use of flexible legal talent to address unique business challenges and help businesses keep driving forward.

1. Reimagine Secondments.

While some legal departments still ask their law firms for seconded associates, this is becoming increasingly less common. The drawbacks associated with conventional secondments include disruptions in staffing and profitability for law firms, along with potential adverse effects on the career trajectory of associates.

With the rise of alternative legal services providers, legal departments can engage contract attorneys and paralegals with specialized experience and background to match the role required, and law firms may continue their existing client services without disruption due to staffing shortages and lost profits.

2. Generate Revenue.

Examine your business operations and engage with your business development team. You might discover an opportunity to generate revenue using flexible legal talent.

One Latitude client, for example, recognized that it was leaving money on the table by not attempting to negotiate settlements when corporate customers failed to pay or perform in strict accordance with the company’s contractual agreements. They launched a pilot program, engaging a seconded team of Latitude attorneys with litigation experience to negotiate settlements of the disputes. The company did not have sufficient in-house attorneys on staff to address the disputes, did not approve the budget to hire additional full-time employees to manage the work, and did not want to send these matters to outside counsel because the firms’ hourly rates would quickly outpace the value of the disputes. Engaging Latitude’s attorneys on a flexible basis allowed them to negotiate settlements of the disputes at a fraction of the cost of outside counsel, without adding to the company’s overhead for a project they weren’t sure would generate revenue to justify the investment.

3. Activate Contract-to-Hire Engagements.

Test potential hires through contract-to-hire arrangements, ensuring the right fit for both parties. Contract-to-hire offers the employer the chance to assess a candidate’s fit for the role. In these engagements, we always recommend that the employer think outside the box and gauge a candidate’s success not only for their ability to meet the requirements of the role today, but for their potential to develop and boost overall performance outcomes long-term. If they are considering a new role, the employer can assess demand for the new position before committing to a permanent hire. Conversely, the candidate may assess the work requirements, schedule, and team culture to determine if this opportunity is a fit for them permanently.

4. Navigate Mergers, Acquisitions, or Organizational Restructuring with Minimal Disruption.

Periods of transition – such as a merger, business acquisition, or team restructuring – might require additional support. Take, for instance, the integration phase of a merger in which there are several opportunities for the legal department to leverage the expertise of a flexible legal professional.

First, mergers can impact employee contracts, benefits, and labor agreements. Moreover, there might be a necessity to transfer or modify intellectual property rights and licensing agreements. Merging companies must ensure compliance with data privacy and security regulations, especially if customer data is involved. Additionally, if merging companies have physical locations or leases, a thorough review and effective management of lease agreements and property transfers is required. And finally, the organization, indexing, and management of the extensive legal documentation generated throughout the merger process plays a pivotal role in facilitating easier access for the legal team to reference critical information. In any of these matters, a legal professional who is highly experienced in the required practice area can come in on a contract basis to manage the work required and streamline the transition.

Flexible legal talent has proven itself as a versatile solution, capable of swiftly addressing a spectrum of business challenges. From scaling teams during demanding workload periods to seamlessly covering leaves of absence and augmenting teams during hiring freezes, the potential of flexible legal talent to enhance operational effectiveness and client service is clear.

Moreover, by delving into creative applications like reimagined secondments, revenue generation, contract-to-hire evaluations, and supporting organizational transitions, corporate legal departments can further harness the power of flexibility to not only navigate challenges but also cultivate growth for their business and client service outcomes.

For a decade, Latitude has provided flexible legal talent solutions to clients from coast-to-coast. When in need of top-tier attorneys and other legal professionals to support your team, or you want to explore innovative flexible staffing solutions for your business, do not hesitate to reach out to us.

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