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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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:
- Appearance (we don’t want locums working for us who turn up in shellsuits!)
- Client interaction
- Staff interaction
- Management Skills
- Time Management
- 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.
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:
- Client interaction
- Staff interaction
- Management Skills
- Time Management
- Overall impression
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.
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:
- Hourly rate paid directly to the locum lawyer . This is usually termed as the “locum hourly rate” in our correspondence with you.
- 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.
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.
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 email@example.com if you get in touch after 5pm or before 8.30am.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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 email@example.com
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.
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.