The legal department is one of the busiest departments in an organization. There are continually new regulations or compliance rules to follow, conversations with executive leadership about the risk level of the action the organization is thinking about taking, and the general day-to-day legal paperwork and matters that come up in an instance. Lawyers have a lot to do, and depending on the size of the legal team, an organization may not have enough hands to tackle the “normal” workload (much less the stuff that comes up out of the blue).
The legal department can enter the “Danger Zone” at any moment. Sometimes you can see it ahead of you, but oftentimes, it pops up seemingly out of nowhere. For example, many organizations are implementing hiring freezes as they evaluate the direction of the economy and its impact on their business. Just because you cannot hire does not mean the work is going to stop. Another more common example would be a lawyer needing to take medical or maternity/paternity leave. While these types of leaves usually come with a warning, being down a person for any extended period of time can throw a team into a tailspin. Who is going to be your maverick and help you fly in these times of need?
Talk to Me, Goose
That star wingman could come in many forms depending on your legal department’s budget, headcount, etc. One viable solution is using consulting lawyers. These lawyers come into an organization and work project to project or for a flexible amount of time for as long as their support is needed. They are often times career consultants who have built their legal careers on providing expertise within an organization when needed, and then move on to support another company when the time is right. Often, law firm lawyers looking to transition in-house will take on temporary legal work, and even general counsel who are ready to step out of the limelight (but not the profession) will step into an organization, as needed, to solve a legal team’s challenges. These consulting lawyers offer a lot of experience and know-how, coming in to traverse even the most insurmountable task.
The Need for (Hiring) Speed
There is a need for speed, however, if you want to recruit one of these mavericks to your team. For your best chance at success, you should follow the three I’s: Identify, Interview and Integrate.
First, identifying the best candidates requires knowing where to look. An experienced legal recruiting firm is a great place to start, if you have a specific profile in mind. Consulting lawyers move from one assignment to the next rather quickly, so they come on and off the market just as fast. You need to act fast to find and bring the right person on board.
Next, interviewing should be handled differently than you would for a full-time, permanent hire. Multiple rounds with panels of interviewers works for a permanent hire but not for a temporary, consulting attorney. Limit the number of interviews and the number of people included in the interviews to shorten the decision-making time and avoid delays in hiring. Change your mindset and remember you are looking for an immediate solution, not a long-term marriage.
Finally, how you integrate this person into your legal team will be the key to a successful assignment. The hired consultant will likely have the experience you need and need very little training on the actual job duties, so you should be prepared to introduce them to the business and the company culture. Also take the time to get the equipment and access they need in advance of their first day.
When the team that is often tasked with solving their business’ problems, then has a problem of their own, the solution often requires a little creativity to solve. Interim legal talent can serve as your wingman and help you land the plane with ease.