As the Director of Orbit Legal Resourcing, I’ve been a close observer of the careers of contract lawyers for some time. Based on what I’ve seen – and what I’ve heard from our clients – I’ve put together my list of the top 10 things contracting lawyers can do to fast track their careers.
Some people make the mistake of thinking that contract lawyers just want to lurch from one gig to the next. In my experience, that is not the case. Orbit lawyers are typically quite experienced and are encouraged to make contract choices that enhance their career. Most of our lawyers have identified their career goals and are looking to deepen their legal or industry expertise, or even management experience, through a succession of contract opportunities. Others, particularly commercial lawyers, use contracting to get access to a broad range of projects, clients and major commercial initiatives.
Every assignment offers experience and networking opportunities. The best way to make the most of these is to have a “what can I do for you” rather than a “what can I get out of it” mindset.
For contract lawyers, change creates opportunity. The keys to thriving with change are to embrace it, be part of it and communicate, communicate, communicate. One lawyer recently told us:
“It’s an extraordinary journey and I have done more and developed more in the last three years than most lawyers get in 10 because you have to hit the ground running.”
A recent legal job market survey found that in-house teams need strong and experienced lawyers and that lawyers with 5+ PQE are highly sought after. As a legal resourcing firm offering predominantly senior lawyers, that also correlates with our experience.
The survey showed the skill sets in highest demand are commercial and contract lawyers, including ICT procurement. Other skills regularly sought after include M&A, litigation, dispute resolution and construction.
Again the survey results map to the Orbit experience. Last financial year, 25% of our assignments were for commercial contract positions, 22% were for IT, 10% for both construction and corporate M&A, and 8% employment and workplace. Industry expertise is also preferred, with the leading sectors seeking contract lawyers being IT, financial services and government.
Take advantage of Orbit’s diverse assignments with quality clients to quickly broaden your industry or legal expertise in areas of high demand.
Contracting assignments give senior lawyers access to great work experiences. However, it’s critical that they also continue to invest in their personal development given they are regularly being engaged as experts in their field.
By giving our lawyers access to Corrs’ learning and development opportunities, we help Orbit lawyers meet their CPD obligations and stay on top of legal developments. We also provide training in some of the broader skills they need, including CV writing and interview tips.
We see many high performing contract lawyers being placed directly from one in-house team to another. What distinguishes these highly sought after lawyers is their willingness to dive into the company they are working for. They take the time to understand the corporate objectives and values and, importantly, their manager’s priorities. By aligning their efforts to those goals and objectives, they quickly deliver value for their clients.
Lawyers who take the time to understand the clients’ drivers are best-placed to identify ways they can deliver value that will actually be valued. These people are insightful, proactive and in high demand. They use their experience of having worked in numerous in-house teams to suggest improvements and they use their emotional intelligence to deliver those suggestions in a manner that is seen as valuable.
As a contract lawyer, you are assessed as a resourcing cost. In other words: are you delivering value for the associated cost?
We know from talking to our clients that they are looking for lawyers who deliver quality legal work, are client-centric, are commercially focused and make it “painless” for them. So make it easy for the client to see the value you are delivering. Be present, be willing, be proactive, always deliver quality work and appropriately share your successes – as well as the credit when it’s due.
As a contract lawyer, you usually have to parachute into an in-house team. Client feedback often talks about a contracting lawyer’s ability to quickly become part of the team – or not. Contract lawyers should grab opportunities to get to know their team, participate in social activities and express appreciation for the contribution of others. That said, they should also make sure these activities are perceived as being done “off the clock”.
Our senior lawyers know how to work hard and smart and they are valued as being “premium” for it. They do the best with the responsibility they are given; they do what it takes to get the job done well; and they have a “can do” attitude even with assignments others don’t want. That gives them great exposure and makes them a valuable resource.
We have opportunities available for exceptional lawyers with 5+ PQE. You must be established as an ILP or sole practitioner, carry an unrestricted practising certificate and have PI insurance. Email or call Greg for a confidential conversation on how legal contracting can work for you.
National Talent Manager
Phone: +61 3 9672 3187