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The market for temporary lawyers has exploded in Atlanta as baby boomers seek flexible hours and firms look to cut costs in an era of exploding associate salaries. Lawyer Andrew L. Schwartz serves as managing director of the Atlanta office of Kelly Law Registry, a legal staffing unit of Kelly Services, a Fortune 500 company devoted to temporary staffing. “Firms have realized that there’s a giant upside to using contract attorneys,” he says. “Five or 10 years ago people thought someone who was willing to do contract work couldn’t find a job. Today that’s totally not the case. Today contract attorneys are former general counsels, former partners in law firms, former senior and junior associates who, for whatever reason, have decided this is the avenue they want to pursue.” Firms of all sizes have realized the usefulness of contract lawyers. It’s been a trend driven by the bottom line. Increases in associate salaries have boosted the value of experienced lawyers willing to come in on short-term projects. And there’s a growing pool of older lawyers who desire flexible schedules. Schwartz’s company has become a recognized name because of its place in the temporary office help industry. But the legal segment of the company has been operating in Atlanta for five years. Another Atlanta agency, Staff Counsel, says its business is flourishing after only a year. Mara Sacks is one of three attorneys who own Staff Counsel. She says her clients tend to be firms with 30 or fewer lawyers. Using contract attorneys can enable smaller firms to take on bigger cases, she says. “There’s a really, really high demand for contract attorneys because the firms can bring them in for a big project, a huge case,” says Sacks. “I just had one where a massive case came through the door but there were only five attorneys in the firm.” There are several benefits to using contract lawyers: Agencies pre-screen the lawyers, saving firms from this administrative task. Firms aren’t responsible for benefits. If the attorney doesn’t work out, there is no love lost. Goodbyes are simple. Perhaps most important, firms can add staff during high-volume periods without bearing the expense of pricey talent when business slows. “I think the firms would much rather bring in people when they need them, when work is piled up, the cases are huge and they can’t handle them,” says Sacks, “as opposed to hiring somebody, giving them a full-time salary and when things go slow again they’ve got somebody sitting in their office not doing anything.” Peter B. Glass is a partner with Miller & Martin, a 150-attorney firm based in Chattanooga, Tenn. He says he’s observed the trend of attorneys seeking flexible scheduling. “There are an awful lot of very bright, capable people who are just turned off by this workaholic sort of rat race that you get into,” he says. “I have noticed a number of lawyers I’ve practiced with over the years are now practicing out of their homes or practicing in a small office and doing what they like to do.” But Glass sees a downside to hiring contract attorneys. “I think the issue of the quality of work is one that you’ve got to watch because you’re not familiar with what they know and what they don’t know,” he says. “If you have somebody you’ve trained through your program, then you’re pretty confident that you know what they’re capable of doing — where they’re efficient and where they’re not.” Glass doesn’t think this should stop firms from using contract lawyers. “In most firms you have an attorney who is responsible for a matter and that partner and maybe a few of his partners and associates are the ones that are primarily responsible for interfacing with the client. Who actually does the work I think is of less concern than who is the person responsible.” Atlanta-based Troutman Sanders has had no problems with hiring contract attorneys through the agencies. Managing Partner Robert W. Webb says those brought on board as contract employees actually move into office space in the firm and work just as hard as other attorneys in his firm. He acknowledges that, “there’s been kind of an industry that’s been created to provide contract attorneys that didn’t used to exist.” He adds, “Our experience has been good. They are performing their jobs and we’re getting the work done on projects we’ve hired them to do.” Webb says he now has about eight contract lawyers and that he uses them for specific projects. “If we’ve got a project that’s going to require a significant amount of horsepower and it’s going to have tasks that can be done below a partner level, we may use contract attorneys.” He says an example would be where Troutman Sanders has “a lot of the same type of work and we’re going to need a lot of people to do it. It is easy to staff that case by hiring contract lawyers.”

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