Many moons ago, contract gigs were largely viewed as a fallback for attorneys—something you did to stay busy after retirement or fill in the gaps until a permanent opportunity came along.
Even today, some candidates still get caught up in old misconceptions about the interim model.
But we’ve seen these myths challenged time and again as more attorneys recognize interim work as a feasible and empowering professional path, including for lawyers with in-house experience.
Here are some of the most common fallacies (and reasons why they should be put to bed once and for all).
MYTH #1: Interim work is mainly for entry-level employees or attorneys with low-level skill sets.
FACTS: Interim jobs very often include senior attorney roles for both in-house legal departments and law firms.
Many companies turn to outside recruiters when they need interim legal professionals with niche, difficult-to-find skill sets.
We’ve seen increased hiring for contract associate, counsel, senior counsel, AGC and even GC-level titles with a high level of autonomy or management responsibilities.
What’s more, the need for interim talent isn’t limited to certain industries or practice areas. Healthcare, finance, life sciences, and high-tech all understand the strategic advantages of using interim talent.
Legal practice areas that routinely rely on interim professionals include intellectual property, big-box commercial real estate, private-equity, M&A and commercial transactions, as well as securities law and complex commercial litigation.
MYTH #2: Interim attorneys can’t take advantage of remote work due to state licensing issues.
FACTS: During the pandemic, legal departments and law firms were forced to reexamine and retool their workflows as they made an abrupt shift to remote work. And it’s clear telecommuting is here to stay.
According to a recent ABA report, 87% of lawyers say their workplaces permit remote work. Nearly two-thirds of lawyers in private practice have the ability to work remotely full-time or choose their own schedule.
Interim roles are no exception. Reciprocity agreements make it possible for lawyers to live in one state and practice in another without having to retake the bar in that state.
Even in non-reciprocity stateså, most of the interim roles we see only require attorneys to be barred in one U.S. state—not just the state they live in or the state where the company is headquartered.
For employers, offering remote interim roles provides access to a broader swath of legal talent.
Remote contract work is a win for attorneys as well, allowing them to avoid arduous commutes and achieve more balance in their professional and personal lives.
It also gives them more variety in their work and the ability to pick and choose what projects they take on.
MYTH #3: Interim gigs won’t enhance your resume or help move your career forward.
FACTS: Interim work is no longer seen as a “space filler” in an attorney’s work history. Rather, it demonstrates a consistent commitment to meeting long-term goals through non-linear career paths or staying engaged after a layoff or during an economic downturn.
Plus, since so many top companies utilize interim talent today, contract work can provide the opportunity to add some prestigious brands to an attorney’s resume and cover letter.
Additionally, interim work can provide inroads to legal skills, practice areas and industries that an individual wouldn’t have easy access to otherwise.
For many attorneys, the road to career fulfillment is no longer linear. Rather, it’s more inclined to zig and zag as they engage in self-discovery, learn new skills and uncover new passions and possibilities in a changing marketplace (think “jungle gym” versus traditional career ladder).
Interim assignments can serve as steppingstones to a desired legal career, no matter where it began.
The key is being selective about the specific interim role; every project should be relevant to your existing skill set, yet flexible enough to get one closer to your long-term career goals.
Practically speaking, contract work also provides a golden opportunity to test-drive new areas and new organizations to see if they’re a good long-term fit—before committing to a permanent position. How often do we get the chance to do that?
Not to mention, interim work is a great way for candidates to increase work-life balance and flexibility and supplement their income with interesting work.
MYTH #4: Interim work isn’t interesting, engaging or rewarding.
FACTS: Interim attorneys are often recruited for critical, high-exposure engagements in large, well-known organizations.
While interim legal staffing may have started with lower-level document review and contract work, it’s since expanded to encompass technical and high-end assignments of all kinds.
We’re seeing contract attorneys work side-by-side with permanent staff and leadership to fill crucial gaps during a transitional period or solve complex legal problems facing the organization.
MYTH #5: Interim attorneys are not offered benefits.
FACTS: More and more, we’re seeing instances where interim attorneys are hired as W2 employees.
Some are even given the option to elect benefit packages that include medical, dental, vision and a 401K.
While these benefits may not be fully comparable to the perks offered to permanent employees, they represent an additional level of candidate care that shows interim talent is valued.
MYTH #6: Interim attorneys are only sought by financially unstable companies who don’t have the budget for permanent hires.
FACTS: Whether there’s a special project that needs attention or a sudden employee departure, legal departments and law firms are increasingly bringing in candidates from less-traditional paths.
In fact, these days, more Fortune 500 companies and AM law 200 firms use search firms to find high-performing legal professionals than not.
In some industries, or in economic downturns, it’s routine practice for organizations to hire contract attorneys before permanent ones.
Interim workers allow companies to expeditiously fill workforce gaps and meet their productivity goals in the continuing talent crisis.
On a larger scale, interim talent is helping employers regain stability and stay competitive in a post-pandemic world.
MYTH #7: Interim employment is a last resort—not an active choice.
FACTS: It’s a frequent assumption that interim work isn’t someone’s first choice. But our experience says otherwise.
The available talent pool of interim candidates is expanding steadily as attorneys at all stages get creative in their career progression. Many are simply looking for more: more flexibility, more pay, more challenging work.
Others want a quicker path to gaining senior-level roles and responsibilities.
No matter the end game, a growing number of legal professionals are leveraging interim roles to regain control over their career trajectory. We’ve seen many people stay gainfully (and happily) employed on multiple, long-term contract engagements.
Undoubtedly, interim staffing will continue gaining steam in a legal environment that’s shunning outdated stereotypes and attitudes.
This model’s flexibility, networking potential, learning opportunities and variety cannot be ignored.
If you’re intrigued by the promise and potential of the interim path, it’s a good idea to connect with a seasoned recruiter who specializes in legal staffing.
They can help you gain a better understanding of the current marketplace and put you in touch with organizations and roles that align with your long-term career aspirations.