The locum debate

The locum market is booming. Firms of all sizes are increasingly seeing the benefits of sourcing qualified legal assistance on a locum basis. Firms are even looking to make inroads to the locum market themselves as part of their traditional private practice offering, but what’s the locum-motive?
Historically, there has been a reluctance to use locums based largely on a perception that no-one knows the cases as well as the normal fee-earner. There is also a concern that the candidates may be of lower quality than permanent counterparts. The legal profession is slightly behind other sectors in taking advantage of temporary and flexible contracts but the tide is changing and the concept evolving.
The market for good locums is recession proof. In an economic downturn, in-house, private practice and local government sectors will want to keep their fixed overheads under control so permanent hires may not be possible. Likewise, at the beginning of an economic upturn, initial uncertainty may mean firms do not want to commit to adding to headcount, and a locum is an obvious solution. 

The benefits of a locum

Locums are a valuable asset to any firm. Historically hired to cover sickness or maternity leave, they are often hired to provide extra resource for transaction, litigation deadlines or sudden bursts in client activity. More specifically, locums can cover gaps in the capability of, and provide relief to, permanent associates during the often long, and occasionally contentious, search for a new permanent team member. In the least, they keep matters on track to create a happy landing for a new starter. Clients who choose to do this take the view that locum cover for a difficult-to-fill permanent vacancy will allow them to be less reactive and more discerning in finding the ideal talent for their team.
For departments that suffered particular attrition in the recessional period, locums at the senior end can serve as a band aid across the wider team; undertaking work at all levels of expertise. Firms are now coming to realise that locum candidates are usually over-qualified for the work and as such will add value immediately, often completing specific projects within shorter time scales. Your typical experienced locum will be adept at ‘hitting the ground running’ and will get matters on track for completion without delay. They are able to collate new information in the shortest of time frames to carry out the assignment effectively, and more importantly, autonomously.

Locum = flexibility on both sides

The cornerstone of this mutually beneficial relationship is the flexibility offered for both parties. In a recent survey by Regis, 72% percent of respondents credited increased productivity to flexible working practices. The locum approach can provide a rewarding career and exposure to different firms and workplaces, while still allowing flexible working hours. Locums enjoy the ability to focus on personal, non-legal endeavours or perhaps work for only two days a week for a given period. In most instances, locums will have total control over their work/life balance, which is often not the case in a permanent role. Likewise, firms are not obliged to commit to a certain period of time and can be totally reactive to the needs, and budget, of their clients.
With both parties benefitting, the future for locum arrangements is only getting brighter. In a world in which it is becoming increasingly difficult to juggle the work/life balance, this can only continue to strengthen.  It seems to be a case of 'All Aboard!', unless you want to be left behind.
If you are looking to recruit a locum or would like to discuss locum career opportunities, contact Anna Cox, senior consultant at Michael Page Legal.
T: +44 20 7269 2410