Some businesses experience a slowdown during the summer months, but law firms with diverse practice groups often remain busy throughout the year since most legal matters do not take time off. Partners and associates often sacrifice their vacations to client cases and litigation schedules, but the same is not necessarily true for legal support staff such as secretaries, receptionists, paralegals and IT professionals. Individuals in these roles may stick to the traditional schedule of taking a summer vacation, regardless of what may be going on in the office. For firm management, it is important to anticipate that there may be gaps in the firm’s support network from June through September. Here are some tips on managing gaps in summer staffing:
Remind workers of the firm’s vacation policy, including the required length of notice, if there is one. Whether your firm uses seniority or a first-come, first-served method to grant time off, be sure the process is consistent to avoid conflict or liability. Managers should create a vacation calendar and a backup list for everyone on the team in anticipation of summer absences.
Speak with practice group managers and find out what the anticipated workload will be throughout the summer. Decide where current staff can step in and where extra help is needed. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and bring in the extra manpower! Adjustments can always be made later. Have vacationing staff members, attorneys and managers clearly outline the work that will need to be done in their absence. Waiting until the paralegal is already on the beach in Rio will result in aggravation, wasted time and errors in casework.
Now that you know exactly where the gaps are and what the nature of the work is, contact your HR department or a legal staffing firm as soon as possible to secure qualified temporary workers. Remember that many other firms and in-house legal departments will be facing the same challenges. While your firm won’t be responsible for payroll, taxes or benefits for temporary workers, consider some office perks such as free snacks and meals or a performance bonus to attract the most qualified prospects.
The U.S. economy has been outperforming expectations in 2018, and this may translate into more work for law firms. If your firm has seen an uptick in solid business growth, it may be a good idea to retain the summer workers that truly shined. There is no rule that says temporary employees have to remain as such. They can easily be converted to full-time employees if both parties feel that the relationship is beneficial.
Talk to the experts at Collier Legal Search if your firm needs summer legal professionals or long-term placements. We are a full-service legal staffing company that specializes in placing well-credentialed partners, associates and legal professionals at every level in law firms and corporations.