Locum Services for Law Firms and In House Legal Departments

FAQ

Employers (14)

What happens next after we send you an assignment?

We run your assignment past our locums to see who is available and interested. Responses are usually received within about 40-60 minutes and we forward across our preferred locums for you to consider. At the same time we will send over a copy of our terms and conditions for your attention. Nothing too onerous in these – our locums work on a self-employed basis and invoice you weekly. We invoice you monthly with our fee being based on the hours worked.

Once you have decided on your preferred locum we arrange for you to speak to them directly or book them in to cover your assignment. On request we send you one or two references, proof of ID, proof of residence and a copy of the locum’s practising certificate if relevant.

The process can be undertaken extremely quickly. Our record is an assignment registration at 4.50pm on a Thursday, with a locum starting at 9am on the Friday.

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How far ahead can I plan my locum cover for holidays?

Q: How far ahead can I plan my Locum cover for holidays or pre-arranged annual leave?

A: As far ahead as you wish.  It is a good idea to always plan ahead wherever possible as locum cover can be difficult to arrange at short notice in the busy periods of the year like the summer or around Christmas. However the vast majority of locum contracts are arranged with as little as 24 hours notice (sometimes a lot less) and we try to assist.

If you know about annual leave coming up in say 3 months time, it is definitely worth speaking to us now rather than waiting. Just drop us an email over to jobs@interimlawyers.co.uk and tell us the following information:

  • Name of law firm or in house legal department
  • Email address and telephone number
  • Type of law
  • Budget (optional)
  • Level of experience needed and whether you will recruit a solicitor or a solicitor/legal executive/experienced fee earner
  • Start date and end date

 

 

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How can I be sure you will send a fully qualified Locum Solicitor?

Q: How can I be sure you will send a fully qualified Locum Solicitor?

A: We use a thorough registration process for all our locum staff. During this, we request proof of ID, proof of residence, a copy of their practising certificate, confirmation that they have no conditions on their practising certificate and at least two references from recent employers or from recent assignments.

At the end of each assignment we request full feedback from our clients on the performance of the locum, including issues such as:

  • Punctuality
  • Appearance (we don’t want locums working for us who turn up in shellsuits!)
  • Ability
  • Client interaction
  • Staff interaction
  • Management Skills
  • Time Management
  • Efficiency
  • Overall impression

Any locum who receives a low score in this process will not get future work from Interim Lawyers. We are aware that sometimes the requirements of employers for a locum are a little excessive and we do bear this in mind when evaluating our returns. An example of this would be a low score for punctuality where the locum has turned up 30 minutes late on one occasion due to a signalling failure on the train line.

For non-qualified staff we are more dependent on references to demonstrate ability.

From time to time we supply new legal locums to clients for very short notice assignments, and we are not always able to get references immediately. However from the moment we know a locum is going to work on an assignment we endeavour to obtain these and forward them through asap.

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The Locum we used was not as good as expected, what can we do?

Q: The locum I had at my law firm was not as good as expected, what can I do?

A: It is always disappointing when a locum does not live up to expectations and we as an agency would like to know if this is the case. Sometimes if we feel that our clients have received poor service from a locum we offer a discount on future assignments (this is not a contractual obligation). We can very often supply an alternative locum solicitor or fee earner at short notice.

After all, the beauty of using a locum solicitor is that you can quickly terminate any arrangement and hire another one without too many issues arising.

We do ask for feedback after each assignment and do not offer poorly performing locums future assignments.

Locums are assessed on:

  • Punctuality
  • Appearance
  • Ability
  • Client interaction
  • Staff interaction
  • Management Skills
  • Time Management
  • Efficiency
  • Overall impression

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How many locum agencies should I register an assignment with?

Q: How many locum agencies should I register our firm’s assignment with?

A: We rarely get asked this question, but we know that quite a few practice managers or junior partners at medium sized law firms will get asked to secure the services of a locum or provisionally find out what is available out there in case of need. The practice manager will call round 6 or 7 agencies and ask for a locum.

We know that the practice manager has called round 6-7 recruitment agencies to ask for a locum because our locums email us and let us know!

Professional locums tend to register with a good number of agencies to make sure they have been considered for every locum assignment available on the market. The problem with blanket calling a load of agencies is that firstly you will be inundated with phone calls from very excited agents all thinking they have the assignment wrapped up and pushing you for a response, and secondly you will be wasting your time on the whole because a good number of employment agencies have very similar locum lists.

It is certainly true that we all have certain locums we use regularly, and that these locums will favour one particular agency over another, but it still means you will have caused each locum to get 6-7 different telephone calls from agencies, which can be very annoying for the locums concerned!

Our advice is to call one agency, give them a deadline of when you expect to see CVs, and if none are forthcoming or not suitable, move onto the next legal recruitment agency.

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What is the cost of having a locum?

Q: What is the cost of having a locum?

A: Locum costs depend on a wide range of factors, but usually the rule of thumb is that the longer the assignment the lower the rates.

Location plays an important part in determining hourly rates. For example if you work in Kings Lynn there are very few locums who live within say 75 miles of your offices. This means that a locum will have to stop overnight. Accommodation costs in Kings Lynn are usually reasonable so the hourly rate will not be that affected. However – if you are based in Newquay in Cornwall there are again very few locums residing close by but the accommodation costs at certain times of the year are exceptionally high so hourly rates will be considerably higher.

Length is the other major issue, although a good number of locums have become fairly immune to promises of length assignments that are offered simply to try and haggle the hourly rate down! It is fairly easy to spot firms who are trying it on and recruit a locum for 2 weeks cover at a low rate by indicating a likely duration of 6 months. The rates will probably be lower for longer term assignments, but this can only be a very small reduction in a lot of cases.

Costs can be broken down into the following:

  1. Hourly rate paid directly to the locum lawyer . This is usually termed as the “locum hourly rate” in our correspondence with you.
  2. Our fee – this is paid separately and is based on 18% of monies paid to the locum.

There are no other costs. The locum will issue an invoice to you on a weekly basis, payable within 3 working days by BACS. We issue an invoice for our fee on a monthly basis, based on the amounts the locum invoices you for during the month.

As a general guide, the overwhelming majority of our locums work on a rate of £25-35 per hour (this has increased in recent times and varies year on year) – see our hourly rate guide for details.

Our fee of 18% is non-negotiable – we charge the same rate on every assignment – click here for our locum fee page. However if a locum takes a permanent role with you we have different arrangements. Please contact us for details.

 

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How are locum solicitors screened – what qualifications do they have?

Q: How are locums screened – what qualifications do they have?

A: Our recruitment process involves all locums being thoroughly screened before being registered. We always obtain two professional references and get proof of ID/residence plus a copy of a practising certificate before arranging an assignment for a locum. Sometimes we do introduce locums who are available at short notice and then try and get the above documents over as quickly as possible. The skills sets of our locums vary so please let us know if you require any specific qualifications or accreditations and we’ll make sure that we find a locum who matches your requirements.

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How quickly can you respond to emergency requests?

Q: How quickly can you respond to emergency requests?

A: We open the Interim Lawyers office at 08.30 hrs every weekday and we are able to respond very rapidly to requests for emergency cover for locum solicitors and lawyers. We can dispatch solicitors and lawyers within minutes of a call being made, although naturally every call depends on the current availability and status of our locum teams.

Our out of hours service is operated by email. We regularly check for emergency cover requests throughout the evening as well as early morning, so if you need someone at short notice please email us at jobs@interimlawyers.co.uk if you get in touch after 5pm or before 8.30am.

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We are a Company looking to use a Solicitor. Is having a locum solicitor a cheaper option than using a law firm?

Q: We are a Limited Company looking to use a Solicitor. Is having a locum or interim lawyer handling a case a cheaper option than using a law firm?

A: Yes, in a nutshell, but using a locum solicitor is a slightly different experience to engaging a solicitors firm to do the work for you.

Firstly, you will need to be aware that if your contracted solicitor makes a mistake, you will not have any recompense against the solicitor individually if they are acting as your company representative.

Secondly, you will be restricted to the knowledge an individual solicitor is able to provide rather than a law firm.

Thirdly, the solicitor will need to be contracted to you and will not be an independent lawyer per se.

Fourthly, you will need to check that an in house contracted lawyer can do the same things a solicitors firm can when dealing with your matter.

Whilst it is correct that the hourly rate is going to be dramatically different – budget for about £30-40 per hour for a locum or interim lawyer compared with £175-225 per hour for a solicitors firm, there are reasons for this – the main one being that if a mistake is made, you will have recompense against a law firm – they have professional indemnity insurance.

You cannot employ your own solicitor on a private basis for most types of work, but a limited company can indeed save substantial amounts by using an interim lawyer or locum solicitor. It really depends on the work you want them to do as to how they can assist.

Please note that we do not supply locums to defend winding up actions against your company or similar litigation. It is unlikely also that a locum would be prepared to handle professional negligence claims on your behalf. We credit check every limited company before accepting an assignment.

Get in touch with us to discuss your assignment, and we can advise as to whether using an interim lawyer will be the best course of action or cost effective.

jobs@interimlawyers.co.uk

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I am provisionally seeking locum cover for my firm, what do I need to do?

Q: I am provisionally seeking locum cover for my firm, what do I need to do?

A: Drop us an email over with your requirements but make sure you tell us it is very provisional. It is always helpful to know exactly how likely the assignment is to go ahead.

We have two law firms on our books who are marked with a big black cross. Our locums will not give consent to a CV being released to them and we rarely bother very much when we get their assignments emailed over.

The reason for this is because the practice managers at these solicitors’ firms will spend a lot of time giving us their assignments, specify dates, hourly rates, types of work etc.. and tell us that the vacancies are urgent. We contact our locum solicitors, agree hourly rates, provisionally book them in, send a CV over….. and hear absolutely nothing back despite calling and emailing.

Whilst we expect this from time to time and appreciate the pressure law firms and their staff are under, there are a few firms out there who have earned their black cross from doing this more than three times in a row.

If you tell us the post is provisional we can let our locums know as well. This stops them provisionally booking the assignment into their diaries and then bombarding us with calls when another assignment comes in elsewhere that they are unable to accept in the meantime.

Please bear this in mind when looking on a provisional basis. We are very happy to help and can often provide details of locums definitely available at a particular point in time, but if you don’t tell us how possible an assignment is to actually happen it causes us and our locums real problems.

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I am a sole practitioner and need ongoing cover for annual leave or emergencies – can you help?

Q: I am a sole practitioner and need ongoing cover for annual leave or emergencies – can you help?

A: Yes, absolutely. Usually we get calls from sole practitioners asking us to provide details of a locum who can assist on an ongoing basis with any requirements for annual leave, increased workload, emergency illness cover and urgent staff cover.

We can always assist with these, but it is difficult to give a definite locum availability unless the assignment is longer than 4 weeks or we are able to indicate at least 2-4 blocks of booking rather than just one. The reason for this is because most locums will not commit to a week in a year when something much more lucrative could come up that they then have to turn down because they have already booked themselves in for your annual leave cover etc..

If you have a 2 week summer break to cover, simply drop us an email whenever you can to jobs@interimlawyers.co.uk and we will confirm the dates. About 6 weeks before you go we will supply you with availability for our locums so that you can agree cover with us and an individual locum. It is often best to get the person in for a day before you go so that you both know what needs covering and what can be left for your return. Please note that you will have to pay for the locum on this day unless the solicitor in question lives just around the corner and is feeling particularly generous with their time!

Providing ongoing cover is always possible and you simply need to get in touch when you need assistance. Emergencies are similarly covered. Provided you are looking to pay a reasonable hourly rate (we can advise on this for solicitors and legal support staff) we will be able to arrange cover for you.

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What Areas of Law are in Demand for Locums?

Areas of law in demand are fairly straightforward. It is almost always the case that solicitors firms recruit Conveyancers to cover for annual leave, sick leave and maternity leave.

Litigators can be covered for, or so the argument goes. After all if you get in a mess with a litigation file it is easy just to palm it off onto Counsel and let them deal with it.

Residential Conveyancing requires careful management. Anything less than this can result in professional negligence claims. As a result it has always been the case, and probably always will be, that residential conveyancing locums are the most in demand.

If you wanted to become a professional locum and work 9 months in every 12, residential conveyancing with the ability to do some light commercial conveyancing would be the place to be.

Areas to avoid, which tend to go up and down like a yo yo, are litigation and corporate commercial. Family law has been a graveyard for some years since the demise of legal aid and a load of redundant family solicitors. Crime has never really existed as a solid area for locums and litigation tends to be too sporadic.

At Interim Lawyers we are always delighted to hear from residential and commercial conveyancing locums looking for additional work or even just starting out as locum lawyers.

Email us your CV to jobs@interimlawyers.co.uk

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What is the difference between a contractor and a locum?

The use of the term ‘contractor’ tends to describe a situation where a lawyer or solicitor is working on an ongoing basis, usually to deal with excess capacity or a busy period.

The use of the word ‘locum’ tends to be used when referring to a lawyer or solicitor covering for sick leave, maternity cover, replacement cover (during notice periods) or any short term cover.

In the IT industry quite a few skilled employees are used on a contractor basis to deal with specific projects. This does not tend to happen with the legal profession – projects per se do not tend to crop up. It is usually cover for specific incidents or periods of time that is more relevant.

Locums work on a self-employed basis. In other industries contractors work on an employed basis via the employment agency who introduced them. In law firms contractors work on a self-employed basis as well, not usually via agencies unless dealing with a large multinational.

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How do I fill out an Assignment Evaluation Form for a Locum who has completed a contract with us?

Very easily! Simply click this link, download the form, fill it out and email or post it to us. We welcome all feedback on locum assignments, whether positive or negative.

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Locums (29)

What do I do if the firm doesn’t pay me?

We have a full article on this including our guide to getting paid and a template for a 7 day letter before action.

How to Get Paid – a Guide for Locums Chasing Payment

 

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How do I write a CV for locum work?

Interesting you should ask! We have an article on the site setting out exactly what needs to be in the CV or you can download a CV writing pack from our sister site – www.legalcareercoaching.co.uk

The article can be found here: http://www.interimlawyers.co.uk/how-to-write-a-cv-for-locum-work/

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Am I considered self-employed or as an employee?

Am I considered as self-employed or as an employee?

About 95% of locums working through Interim Lawyers are self employed. Working on a self-employed basis gives both the locum and the law firm or in house legal department so much more flexibility and is better from a tax perspective.

However the question as to whether the assignment is classed as self-employed or employed also depends on the Inland Revenue (HMRC). For example if you worked for one firm for 3 years on a regular monthly salary payment equivalent, HMRC may well determine that your arrangement is one of an employee/employer and you would be treated as such from a tax perspective. It is quite clear however that locums engaged for short periods of time who regularly work for a wide range of law firms or in house legal departments are self-employed for the purposes of tax and national insurance.

Longer term or regular locum employment for specific fixed hours each week may be regarded by the Inland Revenue and contributions agency as salaried employment and therefore liable to PAYE and employer’s NIC. We have never come across an arrangement that has fallen prey to this, but you do need to be aware of the tax implications of just working for one firm for a lengthy period of time.

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Am I covered by Professional Indemnity Insurance if I work as a locum?

Q: Am I covered by professional indemnity insurance if I work as a locum or do I need to take out a policy?

A: Unlike doctors and other professions, solicitors’ firm Professional Indemnity Insurance usually covers locum solicitors working on behalf of the law firm. In 99.5% of cases locum and temporary members of staff are covered by our clients’ professional indemnity insurance policy. If you are unsure at any time before an assignment begins please contact us and we will gladly check for you. Whilst you are on site with a client you can ask the firm’s practice manager or one of the partners and ask for confirmation.

Most law firms would be surprised to be asked about PII because it is taken for granted that locums are covered, but with all the changes in the market and different rules applying to so many areas of a law firm practice, it can be worth checking.

Some locum solicitors do take out their own policies just to be on the safe side, and the cheapest way of doing this is to use a price comparison site.

To give you an idea of the cost, we have professional indemnity insurance ourselves, although our terms exclude liability, and the cost is minimal – less than £30 per month. We would expect a similar rate for a locum solicitor because we understand that liability for any errors will rest with the client in most circumstances rather than the locum.

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What are the rates of pay for a Locum Solicitor or Lawyer?

What are the locum rates of pay for a solicitor or lawyer?

This is a difficult question to answer but we have produced a rough guide which you can access by clicking here.

The hourly or daily rate is usually a matter for negotiation between the parties although we very often specify an hourly rate based on discussions with our client before an introduction is made.

A lot of locums have an hourly rate they use to start negotiations and this tends to vary according to the length of an assignment. Longer assignments attract lower hourly rates.

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What are the Terms and Conditions of Employment for a Locum?

What are the terms and conditions of employment for a locum?

This will depend upon whether you are self-employed or an employee of the law firm or in house legal department who have signed you.

If you are engaged on a long term locum assignment and have been advised by an accountant that you are likely to be regarded as an employee, you should be offered a contract of employment specifying details such as salary, entitlement to annual leave, sick leave etc. within eight weeks of beginning your employment.

For locums who are self employed, the terms of the contract will be those agreed with the law firm or in house legal department. The usual range of employment rights protecting salaried employees will not apply.

As a locum on a self-employed basis you need to be aware that it is highly likely at some stage in your locum career a firm will dispense of your services at extremely short notice – this can be as short as a few hours. This is after all the main purpose of employers using locums and temporary staff – flexibility.

You will need to negotiate your terms with the employer. We have a template that our signed up locums can use to agree terms if required, although it very often is just a case of agreeing hours, confirming the hourly rate already arranged and establishing exactly what work is going to be dealt with.

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How, when and what will I be paid for my locum services?

Q: How, when and what will I be paid for my locum services?

A: Locums are paid directly by the hiring law firm or in house legal department. Interim Lawyers do not employ locums directly.

This is why the majority of the locums working through Interim Lawyers are self-employed. Self-employment is very easy to set up. It involves a telephone call to the HMRC to notify them of your intention. After this, you simply have to issue an invoice for the work you have completed.

Payment is on a weekly basis unless agreed otherwise. You issue an invoice to the law firm or in house legal department who ought to pay you within 2-3 working days.

Most firms pay by cheque or via BACS (Bank Automated Clearing System) directly to your bank or building society account. It is important to use the services of a suitably experienced accountant when becoming self-employed. You need to be aware of the expenses that can be put against your income in order to reduce your tax liability etc…

The payment levels depend very much on the assignment and are almost always agreed before we pass you through to speak directly to our clients. See our hourly rates article for details of typical amounts paid.

 

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Will I get any travelling allowance whilst working as a locum?

Q: Will I get any travelling allowance?  

A: We do not pay our locums anything and this includes expenses. It is quite rare to find law firms and in house legal departments prepared to pay expenses or a contribution towards them. Usually the hourly rate agreed is considered to be the overall amount payable.

However there is no harm in asking before you start an assignment. If you want to include mileage or other expenses in your rate we can negotiate this with the employer before you start. It is rare for this to happen and may also affect your potential chances of securing a booking.

For most assignments in popular areas, eg London, we have a good number of locums available for the majority of the year to choose from. For these posts we do not recommend requesting mileage or other expenses. However there are some assignments where you are more likely to get a favourable response.

Some employers may actually provide overnight accommodation as part of the package. Some sole practitioners will offer you the use of their house whilst they go on holiday or know a friendly bed and breakfast owner who will do a good rate.

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Will working as a locum affect my chance of permanent employment in future?

Q: Will working as a locum affect my chance of permanent employment in future?

A: Yes.

Quite simply, when the good times were booming, and law firms were recruiting permanent staff on high salaries and reasonable work conditions, the vast majority would not touch locum solicitors with a barge pole. We should know. Between 2004 and 2008 we dealt with the grand total of about 3 locum assignments and just short of 1,000 permanent vacancies.

None of the registered locums on our books were even interviewed for the permanent vacancies, even when there was very little response from our registered permanent candidates.

The usual reason for this is that employers believe locums to be damaged goods – after all, if you have worked as a locum you have experienced the following:

  1. Freedom
  2. Flexibility
  3. Being your own boss
  4. Being paid a higher hourly rate than the employees at a particular firm

Once you have done this, it is hard to go back to being an employee, or so the theory goes.

It is of course perfectly possible to go back and work as a permanent member of staff, and people do on a regular basis, but do not be surprised if employers hold your locum status against you in future years.

If you are locuming out of necessity, this is of course different. Locuming out of necessity is usually done whilst waiting for permanent work to crop up. Firms will still look on suspiciously, but a few weeks is better than nothing after all.

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Can my locum contract be checked?

Q: Can my locum contract be checked?

A: Lawyers uncertain about the terms on which they are being engaged as a locum, for example, whether or not they are self employed or an employee, can send a copy to us for checking. We are very happy to give any contract the once over, but you must be aware that we do not hold ourselves out as able to offer specific employment law advice. You must also ensure that this is done well before accepting the terms of the contract offered.

It is important to have some sort of agreement set up, even if it is just an email confirming the assignment in writing.

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What do I do if I have had change in circumstances or a change of contact details?

Q: What do I do if I have had change in circumstances (i.e. a change of contact details)?

A: It is important that you keep your locum records with us up-to-date, so that you can benefit firstly from finding out about new assignments and opportunities, and also so that we have the right contact information and experience to pass onto potential employers.You can amend your details by emailing jobs@interimlawyers.co.uk or calling 0207 127 4343.

Please note that if you do locum assignments elsewhere and don’t tell us, you are quite often taking yourself out of the running for any new work coming in. After all, we are unlikely to put someone forward who hasn’t worked for a few years, when we may have someone on our books who has worked through us for the past 6 months constantly (and we are aware of this).

 

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How do I register for work as a locum solicitor with Interim Lawyers?

Q: How do I register to work as a locum for Interim Lawyers?

A: Click here to register as a locum. Once we have your registration we will log you onto our database and keep you posted with anything suitable arising.

Please note that when registering we need to know the following:

1. Your specialist areas of law. So many CVs for locums fail to say exactly what it is you are able to do. If you can handle a caseload of either Conveyancing, Commercial Property or Wills & Probate, please tell us. Failing to do so will simply mean you miss out on opportunities in these areas.

2. Your general availability. It is no use registering for locum work with us if you can only work weekends!

3. Your standard hourly rate. If you don’t know this, have a look at our hourly rate page for an idea.

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Once I am registered how do I get booked to work as a Locum?

Once you have registered, your details will be logged onto our locum database for the fields of law you have expressed an interest in.

We do not tend to distinguish between our locums for different areas of the country, so if you are logged as a conveyancing locum, you will receive locum opportunities for conveyancing across the UK.

Locum assignments come up at different times of the year in various amounts. On some days we get absolutely nothing new in, and on other days we get loads in.

You are very welcome to call us regularly to check on vacancies – we may sound slightly flustered at times if extremely busy, but it always assists. Some people seem to call us and receive an assignment within a few days every time – pure coincidence of course!

We do not favour certain locums over others, and always try to fit the best person to the assignment. This does not always mean the most experienced as the firm may want something less – eg looking to pay less money or specifically looking for someone more junior.

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Who do I contact if I become available for more Locum work?

When you get to the end of an assignment you can drop us an email and let us know you are available again. We always keep locums updated in any event with all assignments coming through to us, whether you are currently in one or not.

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How do you communicate with your locums?

Q: How do you communicate with your locums?

A: We know that keeping our locums up to date with our business is important. That is why we produce our regular newsletter for candidates, both locum and permanent, which appears monthly (give or take a few!).  It keeps you updated, both with vacancies coming in generally, advice on marketing your services, professional developments and with the latest information from around the business that affects you. We deal directly with locums via email and text message regarding any new assignments coming in, but similarly are quite happy to talk to you on the phone where necessary.

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Why work as a locum?

Q: Why should I want to work as a locum?

A: Working as a locum solicitor can offer flexibility, variety and a change of scenery on a regular basis. Whilst our order books in recent years have not exactly been bulging, a good number of locums have found regular ongoing work.

Locums are in great demand at certain times of the year in law firms and in house legal departments. There are several reasons for this. Law firms have discovered that employing locums on a short term contract is a cheaper option than taking on permanent members of staff. Firms are also opening for increasingly longer hours, and this means having extra solicitors to cover the working week.  As the legal job marketplace gets more flexible law firms are finding themselves with staff who want to work part time or job share, requiring more staff and subsequently more cover for those staff when they are off work. Some areas of the UK face recruitment problems, although these are rare in the current climate.

Finally, an increasing number of solicitors are getting involved in providing additional                            services or non-legal services (eg, HR management, ski instructor, nursing home owner etc..) as well as training & lecturing, providing continuing professional development (CPD), all of which may take them away from the office and result in the need for locums.

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How much do I as a locum have to pay you the agency?

Q: How much do I as a locum have to pay the agency?

A: You pay nothing to us (in fact it is illegal for a recruitment agency to charge a candidate); we charge our Clients (law firms, in house legal departments and employers) a fixed rate.

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Who pays my tax and National Insurance?

Q: Who pays my Tax and N.I Insurance?

A:  Depends on whether you are self-employed (issuing an invoice at the end of each week) or whether you are on the temporary payroll. It is very important that you don’t spend all the money you earn. Being self employed you will be accountable for your tax returns. We strongly advise you to get advice from an accountant and have your tax returns completed by them. We can recommend a low cost accountant (our own accountant in fact) and you simply need to email us at jobs@interimlawyers.co.uk and ask for his details.

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What do I do if I can’t fulfill an assignment?

Q: What do I do if I can’t fulfil an assignment?

A: There will be occasional times as a locum solicitor when you will not be able to fulfil an assignment for one reason or another. It is absolutely vital that you contact us by phone, text and/or email as soon as possible so that we can find a replacement. We can be contacted Monday – Sunday between the hours of 08.00 – 17.00hrs on 0207 127 4343.

The best way of contacting us to notify outside these hours is by email. We regularly pick up messages.

We would naturally appreciate you keeping all cancellations to a minimum wherever possible. We penalise any locums who pull out on us without a very good reason and will certainly avoid using them again in future.

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How many locum legal recruitment agencies should I register my CV with?

Q: How many locum legal recruitment agencies should I register my CV with?

A: As many as you like, but we recommend giving one agency priority over others. This will be the agency you have your primary relationship with and you can become a ‘trusted’ locum. We tend to know before sending out an assignment which of our locums is likely to respond, how long it will take them to respond, and also which one we are likely to go with once they have responded.

We also know that there will be certain locums who will only respond to us if they have already checked with their primary agency to make sure they do not have the same vacancy on their books as well.

This is good practice, because your relationship with the locum recruitment consultant is extremely important for ensuring you get continued assignments flowing your way.

Obviously for assignments in far flung places where there are fewer locums you will get more offerings if you are flexible on travel and this will open doors for you, but for assignments in central London for example we get a very healthy response usually for every assignment coming our way.

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I am a solicitor working for a law firm and looking to take on contracts elsewhere – is this possible?

Q: I am a solicitor working for a law firm and looking to take on contracts elsewhere – is this possible?

A: Yes. We have a number of solicitors registered with us as locums and contractors who work for one firm full time or just about full time, yet work for one or more other firms at various times as a contractor or locum. There is no reason why you can’t do this, provided you tell your main employer about the others. I believe it is called ‘moonlighting’ if you don’t have permission, and this is usually covered by your contract of employment!

A typical example is a family solicitor with children panel membership who works in a solicitors firm undertaking privately funded work and not LSC funded family law work. The solicitor has SQM Supervisor status but is not using it with his/her existing firm. Provided your current firm are happy with you working elsewhere, the family solicitor can assign their supervisor status to another practice and work for both law firms. Very common, particularly when LSC rates are so abysmal for legal aid work.

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What Areas of Law are in Demand for Locums?

Areas of law in demand are fairly straightforward. It is almost always the case that solicitors firms recruit Conveyancers to cover for annual leave, sick leave and maternity leave.

Litigators can be covered for, or so the argument goes. After all if you get in a mess with a litigation file it is easy just to palm it off onto Counsel and let them deal with it.

Residential Conveyancing requires careful management. Anything less than this can result in professional negligence claims. As a result it has always been the case, and probably always will be, that residential conveyancing locums are the most in demand.

If you wanted to become a professional locum and work 9 months in every 12, residential conveyancing with the ability to do some light commercial conveyancing would be the place to be.

Areas to avoid, which tend to go up and down like a yo yo, are litigation and corporate commercial. Family law has been a graveyard for some years since the demise of legal aid and a load of redundant family solicitors. Crime has never really existed as a solid area for locums and litigation tends to be too sporadic.

At Interim Lawyers we are always delighted to hear from residential and commercial conveyancing locums looking for additional work or even just starting out as locum lawyers.

Email us your CV to jobs@interimlawyers.co.uk

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What is the difference between a contractor and a locum?

The use of the term ‘contractor’ tends to describe a situation where a lawyer or solicitor is working on an ongoing basis, usually to deal with excess capacity or a busy period.

The use of the word ‘locum’ tends to be used when referring to a lawyer or solicitor covering for sick leave, maternity cover, replacement cover (during notice periods) or any short term cover.

In the IT industry quite a few skilled employees are used on a contractor basis to deal with specific projects. This does not tend to happen with the legal profession – projects per se do not tend to crop up. It is usually cover for specific incidents or periods of time that is more relevant.

Locums work on a self-employed basis. In other industries contractors work on an employed basis via the employment agency who introduced them. In law firms contractors work on a self-employed basis as well, not usually via agencies unless dealing with a large multinational.

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Should I use an umbrella company to get paid?

We don’t think so. In fact we would be glad to publish any reasoning from any umbrella company as to why a locum would want to use an umbrella company to get paid.

Look at the facts. Assuming you do 20 weeks in a year at a rate of £1,000 a week, your annual income is going to be £20,000.

Your tax on this as a self-employed person is going to be negligible. The first £10k’ish is tax free, and the remainder is done at 20%. Your national insurance contributions will be minimal and you can knock off plenty of expenses before getting taxed – speak to an accountant about the expenses to be deducted – low cost accountancy at www.businessbusstop.com if you are looking for one!

An umbrella company sets you up as a limited company and handles all your administration.

Gee whizz! What administration? Issuing weekly invoices, submitting an annual self-assessment to HMRC and paying your national insurance and income tax? It is hardly very taxing.

The umbrella company takes a fee from your hard earnt locum monies for work you could quite comfortably do yourself.

We have only come across one locum using an umbrella company in a very long time in recruitment. In that instance I don’t think the locum got any benefit at all. Completely pointless.

If anyone knows of a reason to justify the use of one of these companies apart from laziness, please let us know and we’ll publish it on our site.

 

 

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What can I do to improve my chances of locum work?

Be prepared to be very, very flexible.

For example, if we email you on a Friday afternoon and ask you if you were free to go to Scarborough on the Monday morning, say yes.

If we ask you to cover a 3 month assignment starting in three weeks time working 3 day weeks for 6 weeks in Portsmouth, say yes.

If we then get a lucrative booking on a full time basis for 6 months covering maternity and need a locum, it is likely we are going to put you forward for it.

If you do not want to do locum work please do the following:

1. Take a locum booking and then decide you don’t want it 12 hours before it is due to start and after we have done reference checks as well as the employer.

2. Um and ah about an assignment 6 miles from your home address before deciding it is too much hassle and besides you have got to pick the kids up from school at 3pm.

3. Pitch at a completely unrealistic hourly rate, even though you are on benefits and in dire straits.

All of these things have happened in the last 12 months. We favour locums who favour us. If I send out a vacancy and need 5 days cover urgently in some far flung part of the UK, I will try and make sure I favour the person who covered it for me when we get something in closer to home.

Locums who cannot be flexible and have very specific requirements are extremely unlikely to get much work through us.

 

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I have conditions on my practising certificate – can I still work as a locum?

The quick answer to this question is yes, you can. We have had a couple of assignments covered by locums in the past who have conditions on their practising certificate, but this is very rare and opportunities where solicitors firms would be prepared to take you are few and far between.

One of the main issues is trust. Locums are often placed fairly blindly into law firms and the firm is completely dependent on our judgment when sending across a CV.

Every locum on our books is checked out before we send over a CV and we are usually able to determine whether there have been any incidents in your past. We always disclose conditions or previous appearances before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal or any involvement with the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

We appreciate that quite often conditions relate to minor breaches of the Solicitors Rules in respect of accounting procedures and this is why on a couple of occasions we have been able to assist locums with conditions.

If you have conditions on your certificate that relate to issues of alleged dishonesty, serious misconduct or conduct falling below the level required of a solicitor, you are unlikely to get locum work through us. Naturally we are happy to discuss any conditions with you prior to registration. Please be aware that thanks to a number of websites publishing all former decisions by the SRA (even when they themselves remove them after a certain time) we can usually work out if there have been appearances before the SDT etc..

This is not always the case though and if we do miss someone we do not accept liability if a law firm take a locum through us and subsequently find that the locum had conditions at some point or appeared before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

The same applies for Legal Executives. Although very few appear to ever get hauled before the ILEX disciplinary tribunal we still want to know about it if you have been before the tribunal and also do background checks.

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A Firm want me to attend an interview before starting an assignment. What should I do?

We normally advise not to attend. Over the years we have been dealing with locum assignments we find that the vast majority of interviews like this are a complete waste of time, both for the client (the law firm) and the locum. Firstly the locum has to take time off working, which is a headache for most if they have to give up valuable hours to do this. Secondly, there is not really any reason for interviewing – the beauty of using locums is that the locum can be asked to leave at any time – you are self-employed – so if there is something wrong with your work the firm can get rid of you at any point. Thirdly we have had some really, really bad experiences of the following occuring:

  1. The firm try to get the locum to agree a discount on their hourly rate and spend the interview time haggling.
  2. The firm try to get the locum to agree a salary rather than an hourly rate in order to save money.
  3. The firm cancel the interview at very short notice after the locum has driven 100 miles to their offices – after all – it is only a locum role and nothing important (this was the reason given by the law firm in question).

Naturally we are happy to arrange interviews if locums want to attend them, but we really think they are unnecessary and time consuming… Telephone or Skype interviews can deal much more efficiently with any queries that need to be discussed and save everyone time and effort.

Think carefully before agreeing to travel for interview.

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Where are Locum Hotspots?

There are certain areas of the UK where locums are in great demand and other areas where there appears to be a lot of them.

Firstly, it is important to point out that certain types of locum are more in demand than others. For example, it is quite rare to get a request for a criminal solicitor locum anywhere in the UK.  Whilst it does happen, and we have had solicitor locum requests in as diverse of places as Mold and the Falkland Islands, they are few and far between and the vast majority of locum assignments coming through Interim Lawyers and Ten Percent Legal Recruitment are for conveyancers, wills and probate solicitors, commercial property lawyers, family solicitors and company commercial solicitors. Civil litigation and commercial litigation solicitors are asked for from time to time, but it seems that most firms are okay to do without cover in the summer for litigation work and in the longer term they tend to cover the work internally.

Conveyancing locum work is cyclical. In the summer there is a lot of conveyancing work available for locums and in fact in the month of August this year we had a number of locum assignments where we had nobody available to cover. This is rare indeed and Interim Lawyers usually has a success rate of about 98% in securing a locum CV for a particular assignment.

Wills and Probate, again, tends to be concentrated around the summer months, but we do find quite a few longer-term roles available simply because there is such a shortage of wills & probate solicitors and fee earners across the UK.

There are certain hotspots for locum work that are worth knowing about if you are thinking of entering into the world of locum assignments.

Firstly, we get a lot of requests for locums from solicitors firms based in Hampshire and Surrey. These are particularly around Portsmouth and Southampton, and moving up the coast towards Brighton and into West Sussex. Not only do we get quite a few requests for locums in places as diverse as Emsworth, Chichester and Bognor Regis, but we also find it harder to source locums for places like Basingstoke, Portsmouth and the outer reaches of Southampton including Eastleigh. If you are available to cover in these areas for residential conveyancing, commercial property and/or wills and probate, then chances are you will pick up quite a bit of work.

The other major hotspot is around Wiltshire, North Somerset and Dorset. We do not seem to get many requests for places in Devon and Cornwall and I suspect there are a good number of retired solicitors based in these areas providing seasonal locum services to local solicitors firms at a reasonable cost, hence the lack of any requirement for the use of a locum agency like Interim Lawyers. However, places around Shaftesbury, Salisbury, Bath, Swindon and Dorchester, seem to have a shortage and solicitors’ firms will quite often try to secure the services of a locum in these areas at quite short notice throughout the year.

Surprisingly, Bristol again is an area where we have traditionally found it harder to source locums because also quite traditionally Bristol solicitors’ firms do not seem to have kept up the salary levels needed to secure accommodation in the Bristol area of a reasonable quality. Whilst house prices and the cost of living have increased dramatically, the salary levels for most Bristol firms have stayed pretty static or dropped which has meant a shortage of qualified staff in the area and has hence led to a lack of locums because firms are reluctant to pay locum rates. The same applies in Gloucester and Cheltenham where similar demand tends to be regular.

Our main area of business for locum assignments is around London. It is fair to say that a good percentage of the locum assignments on a weekly basis occur within 20 miles of central London but here again there are areas that can be a bit like a desert when it comes to sourcing locums. Whilst central London solicitors’ firms have no problem at all sourcing locums through us and we are very often oversubscribed with locums applying for any assignments that crop up in WC1, EC1 and W1, as soon as we move out of the centre of London and into the suburbs it is much, much harder to source locums.

Particular hotspots include East London (for example Stratford, Walthamstow and Ilford), South East London (e.g. Lewisham, Bromley and Dartford), and South West London (including Kingston, Sutton and New Malden).

This is mainly due to transport issues because it is considerably easier for most locums to travel into the centre of London to cover assignments than it is to get to the suburbs, especially if the locum is commuting in from outside London, which most are.

One major area that can be classed as possible the work hotspot in the UK is East Anglia and Ipswich & Norwich in particular.  Due to the fairly remote location of these two cities, it can be hard to find locums prepared to travel out and stay locally at a reasonable rate that law firms can afford.

The same applies to pretty much the whole of Kent once you are outside the M25. Surprisingly places like Canterbury, Folkestone and Margate can be notoriously hard to find anyone prepared to work in them. This does not necessarily make it a hotspot, but more to do with the level of wages being paid in what are pretty high cost of living areas.

One final hotspot is Cumbria, where firms actually do pay good locum rates to secure staff to cover assignments, but it is quite rare to find a locum willing to travel up there. Firstly this is to do with temporary accommodation costs and secondly because there are very few locums who live in the area as it would be difficult to make a living out of the Cumbrian law firms.

The North West for us has traditionally been a problematic area for locums and we have found some solicitors’ firms in the area are quite demanding in their requirements from a locum and expecting too much from the service potentially being supplied. It is quite rare in other areas of the country but fairly prevalent around Manchester and we have had a number of experiences with solicitors firms which have made us quite wary about introducing locums in the area or even taking the time to source candidates. Solicitors’ firms expect very low rates and we have had locums placed in firms where the firm has expected them to undertake business development work for them and generate clients which of course is not something locums are usually there to do.

The best way to use hotspots for locum work is to research the cost of accommodation in the area (AirBnB is getting particularly good at providing cheap accommodation of a reasonable standard) and when you receive an update from Interim Lawyers Legal Recruitment to go for the areas indicated above. Chances are you will be the only applicant.  If you know the cost of accommodation in advance you can factor this into your hourly rate and if a firm is keen enough to get a locum in then they are usually keen enough to pay the premium for someone who needs to stop locally.

The key to getting consistent locum work is to be as flexible as possible, although we do appreciate that circumstances for a lot of people preclude a lot of flexibility. However, regardless of whether it is fair or not, or easy for a particular locum in particular circumstances, flexibility remains the key to getting regular locum assignments.

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Can NQ Solicitors work as Locums?

Q: Can NQ Solicitors work as Locums?

A: No, not really.

In most areas of law, solicitors firms are looking for experienced lawyers to cover annual leave, sick leave, long term absence, change of personnel, increase in workload, etc.. etc.. The locum is expected to go into a department, pick up a caseload and start working on it without anyone else needing to tell him or her what needs doing.

Unfortunately for most NQ solicitors you need fairly close supervision and it is rare to get a newly qualified solicitor who is able to work on their own initiative throughout the day without someone else assisting you.

However – sometimes we do get requests for an NQ (newly qualified) Solicitor to join a solicitors firm as a locum as they have a large case that they need help with for example, or alternatively another NQ Solicitor is off work ill. In these circumstances it is possible that an NQ Solicitor can pick up locum work, but these types of roles are few and far between. We are not even sure we would recommend to an NQ that it is a good idea to work as a locum as it can affect your career prospects and future opportunities – some firms seem to hold it against you if you have a locum assignment on your CV.

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