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FAQ

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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.

Categories: Employers, Locums

Yes they do.

All locum solicitors work on the basis that they are self-employed, and as a result maintain their own practising certificates and their own CPD hours. You cannot expect a law firm or in house department, you are contracting with to pay for this on your behalf as you are self-employed.

If a law firm pays for this on your behalf then in most circumstances you are probably no longer self-employed but classed as employed, because the law firm has paid for some of your professional costs. Self-employed people pay their own professional costs and it is important you ensure this is the case. The cost is usually quite minimal unless you have done lots of work in the previous 12 months, and the best place to look is the SRA website. It is usually a very painless job to get hold of your practising certificate, and you can expect to receive it within a fairly short amount of time, but it is important to remember that this is your responsibility and you should not be doing locum work without a practising certificate in most circumstances.

We are aware of a number of locum solicitors who work as non-practising solicitors in law firms essentially on a paralegal basis. These solicitors have received advice from the SRA and/or Law Society, that their work is perfectly valid and they are able to do this without any issues, but we remain very unsure about this advice as in most cases some elements of the work will involve some sort of advice to a client at some point, and with this, in mind, it does lead to all sorts of issues developing that are probably fairly avoidable if you get a practising certificate.

It’s not exactly as if the practising certificate is going to cost you a huge amount of money, so our normal advice is to get one and make sure it is in place before you commence any locum work.

In fact, don’t even bother applying for locum work until you have the practising certificate in place for that particular practice year, as most firms will simply decline to offer you the locum work because it’s not there and already in place.

Categories: Employers, Locums

Sometimes, and it is a fairly rare occurrence, we get a law firm who go through the whole process of finding, interviewing and accepting a locum to work for them, usually fairly long term, and everything looks good. The locum goes through the whole process of booking themselves out for a period of time, providing all their documentation, dealing with all the various queries and issues and starting work.

On the first day of work the firm welcome the locum with open arms, but after an hour or so inform them that there’s been a change of plan and rather than them working 9:30am to 5:30pm they will instead be working 10:00am until 4:00pm. This is usually because someone in the management team has worked out that if they cut one or two hours a day they will save the firm money each week.

This sounds great for the firm and you would imagine that the locum would be delighted as well because they will be working less hours and have more time to spend on other things. Nothing could usually be further from the truth. Very often the locum will be quite annoyed, whether or not the changed hours suit them. You can almost guarantee that within a matter of weeks the locum will be thinking about assignments to move on to. All because someone in the management team has decided they can save themselves a bit of money simply by cutting the hours of the locum without telling them first.

So is it a good idea to unilaterally cut locum hours?

No, absolutely not. Any firm who do this almost immediately label themselves as a problem to the locum and damage their relationship.

Locum = B2B Relationship

Unilaterally changing hours of locums is an extremely bad idea and never goes well. Locums see it as arrogance on the part of the firm, that they think they can treat them like this but not taking into account that a locum is self-employed and in control of their own circumstances (one of the many reasons lawyers turn to locuming). If locums don’t like a firm or the assignment they will simply leave and find another one.

If you consult with the locum, advise them after a short or medium period of time that circumstances have changed and you don’t actually need a locum for a full day but instead just need them for a bit of a day and ask them for their thoughts on it, this may all have a different response.

You may find that the locum is quite pleased and says, “No problem at all, I’ll source work for the other time when I’m not needed at your practice,” or is pleased that they can avoid the rush hour at the start and finish of the day, or simply that they would rather just work less hours if at all possible. It just has to be done very carefully and with an eye on the needs of the locum as well as on your firm.

Do not expect a locum to be happy about a reduction in hours if you notify them of it on their first or second day. Just think about the time you have spent recruiting a locum and how long it is going to take you to find another one when your current locum is so annoyed with you that they simply leave and find another assignment. It is really important to look after your relationship with a locum because you just never know how long you’re going to need them for, or how hard it is going to be to find someone else to replace them.

So if you have a locum working with you and you are thinking about reducing the hours, please speak to the locum and tell them your thoughts and ask for their opinion on it. You may be pleasantly surprised and find that the locum is quite happy with you changing the hours; similarly the locum might have another suggestion for you which works just as well for your practice and avoids any awkwardness.

Category: Employers

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.

Category: Employers

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.

Category: Employers

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.

Category: Employers

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 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.

Categories: Employers, Locums

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 the 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
Category: Employers

When a law firm or business uses our services to procure a locum solicitor, we charge a monthly introduction fee, which is calculated as a percentage of monies paid to the locum during their time working with your business.

The question that quite often arises is how long this fee is applicable for, and we know this has been subject to court proceedings in the past via other companies because we have been approached to comment on it and advise on our own experience. As far as we are aware, all our competitors charge their fees ad infinitum (and beyond).

Interim Lawyers will only request a fee for 18 months from the date the locum or consultant invoices you for the first time. 

We have decided that it is much easier and fairer for everyone if there is a set limit to how long we enforce our fees for.

This arrangement works particularly well if you take locums on repeat bookings or want to use a consultant for ad hoc work.

You may want to ask our competitors how long their agreements will last for. Expect a Buzz Lightyear answer.

Category: Employers

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 around 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.

Category: Employers

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.

Category: Employers

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 to 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.

Category: Employers

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 on 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.

Category: Employers

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
Category: Employers
Tag: bad locum

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

Category: Employers

For locum solicitors in the UK, the busy period every year starts in May and runs through to September. This is the timeframe when annual leave cover is booked and firms often need extra help dealing with increased caseloads during the conveyancing busy season. People tend to buy and sell houses when the weather is warm, and start looking after Easter.

There is a statistic somewhere that shows the housing market increases by over 50% during the summer months compared with winter, and unfortunately, this tends to coincide with most solicitors’ annual leave! As a result, this is a busy time of year for all concerned, and residential conveyancing locums are particularly in demand. As conveyancing is the busiest area for locum work, it follows that when the property market is busy and when most conveyancers are on annual leave, there is going to be most work available for conveyancing locums.

We have found that firms tend to fall into two categories – those who have regular locums they know will come in to provide cover on an annual basis and have been doing so for years, and those who leave it to the last minute hoping they can struggle through and then discovering that actually if they even think about it, they could end up in hot water with the SRA. There are also the unfortunates who find that their regular locum suddenly discovers they cannot cover the annual leave and leave the firm scrabbling around for a conveyancing locum at the last minute.

Other busy periods bizarrely are around January time when staff have an annoying habit of handing in their notice to start a new job in April, requiring medium to long term cover until the firm can recruit. There is also the baby boom effect that always seems to kick in around January, and we have found over the years that maternity cover requests increase.

Areas of law other than conveyancing tend to be much more ad hoc as firms don’t tend to need annual leave cover to such a degree, although family law is pretty similar to conveyancing. It is still the same though that May to September is the busier period for all areas of law as well as conveyancing, and there is usually very little work from about December through to February unless it falls into the category of staff leaving or maternity cover.

Categories: Employers, Locums

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

This is a difficult question to answer but we a produce a monthly guide which you can access by clicking here.

The hourly or daily rate is usually a matter of 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 can sometimes attract lower hourly rates but not always.

Rates of pay can depend on the time of year, level of demand, availability of locums and the location of the assignment.

Categories: Employers, Locums

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 to 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.

Categories: Employers, Locums

Tier 1 and Tier 2 Locums are the two different levels of registration available to solicitors and legal executives who want to register with us.

Tier 1 Locums will have:

  1. A full CV on our system, detailing all work to date.
  2. Proof of ID in the form of a copy of their passport or driving licence.
  3. Proof of residence – usually a bank statement or utility bill.
  4. At least one reference from employed work or locum work in the past 5 years.
  5. Undergone a background check by one of our consultants.
  6. Agreed to work to the Interim Lawyers standard locum conditions.
  7. Have a fixed hourly rate for work.
  8. Signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement with us.

Tier 2 Locums will have:

  1. Registered with InterimLawyers.co.uk to receive locum assignment updates.
  2. A CV on our system, but not necessarily up to date.
  3. Undergone a background check by one of our consultants.

Tier 1 Locums are those we work with regularly and Tier 2 Locums can either be new registrations or locums who simply want to be informed of assignments as they crop up. We do not arrange assignments for Tier 2 Locums until they have provided the documents requested, although in emergencies we may notify our clients that we have someone at Tier 2 level available.

Categories: Employers, Locums

The definition of a conveyancing locum is a lawyer who provides temporary or short term cover in a solicitors firm or licensed conveyancing practice when a fee earner (a fee earner is anyone who generates fees in a law firm), goes on annual leave, is taken ill or leaves the firm without them recruiting a new member of staff.

So a locum will be used to come in and provide a service as a contractor.

Invariably the conveyancing locum will be working as a business themselves, providing their expertise as a professional advisor to the law firm. They are usually covered by the professional indemnity insurance arrangements of the hiring business and will provide the cover during hours agreed.

The work will involve handling the caseload of the conveyancer who is absent, which will include dealing with queries on files, progressing matters to exchange or completion, handling new queries, opening new files, closing old files, dealing with completion, dealing with matters post-completion, completing SDLT forms, processing information returned by clients and solicitors or lawyers acting for the other side selling or buying the properties, and all matters involved in working in residential conveyancing.

The key point for using the services of a conveyancing locum is that they will not generate new work, they will not undertake marketing, they will not deal usually with complaints against the firm and they will not generally get involved in any internal management of the business other than to keep everything going on a day to day basis. They are there basically to ensure that cases are continued to be progressed and do not stop in the absence of a fee earner dealing with them. This is very important to bear in mind if you are a partner of a law firm and looking for locum assistance. Locums are good at what they do, but you must understand the limitations.

To become a conveyancing locum you simply need to have extensive experience in residential conveyancing and be prepared to work in different locations, sometimes at short notice. To find out all about becoming an interim lawyer or locum solicitor please visit www.interimlawyers.co.uk and read our detailed guide.

Categories: Employers, Locums

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.

Categories: Employers, Locums
Tag: locum cost

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 that introduced them. In law firms, contractors work on a self-employed basis as well, not usually via agencies unless dealing with a large multinational.

Categories: Employers, Locums

There is no difference between a locum lawyer and an interim lawyer. It is just a question of language. We set up Interim Lawyers many years ago simply because all other domain names of a similar nature have been taken! Interim lawyers are exactly the same as locum lawyers; they work on an interim or temporary basis.

In-house interim lawyers work in the same way. There has been some confusion at times because of the way local authorities use the word locum when looking for staff, and in the past, there has been a distinction between lawyers working on a fixed-term basis to cover say annual leave for two weeks, and lawyers working on an ongoing basis covering specific cases or caseloads as and when required.

Some recruitment agencies have referred to lawyers working on an ad-hoc basis but ongoing as “interim lawyers”, and lawyers working on a fixed-term basis covering annual leave or similar as “locum lawyers”.

In reality, there is no difference between the two, but the differentiation has been made because of the way some locum solicitors are paid for their work.

Some recruitment agencies have a commission deal with umbrella companies (not to be confused with a dodgy backhander of course), whereby if a locum signs with a specific umbrella company, the locum agency gets paid a fee. Locums sign up to umbrella companies to get paid for work on a fixed-term basis and the umbrella company pays them as an employee of their own limited company. We have been offered £200.00 per introduction by umbrella companies, so we can only presume that there is some considerable profit to be made in their use. Umbrella companies however are really only relevant to locums who are working on a fixed-term basis, rather than ad-hoc as and when required. Our company does not recommend using them – they are, for most people, an unwanted administrative expense. We think this is why the terms have differed with some agencies – umbrella companies are not really relevant for ad hoc interim solicitor roles and more suited to a fixed term.

Categories: Employers, Locums

Employers

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.

Categories: Employers, Locums

Yes they do.

All locum solicitors work on the basis that they are self-employed, and as a result maintain their own practising certificates and their own CPD hours. You cannot expect a law firm or in house department, you are contracting with to pay for this on your behalf as you are self-employed.

If a law firm pays for this on your behalf then in most circumstances you are probably no longer self-employed but classed as employed, because the law firm has paid for some of your professional costs. Self-employed people pay their own professional costs and it is important you ensure this is the case. The cost is usually quite minimal unless you have done lots of work in the previous 12 months, and the best place to look is the SRA website. It is usually a very painless job to get hold of your practising certificate, and you can expect to receive it within a fairly short amount of time, but it is important to remember that this is your responsibility and you should not be doing locum work without a practising certificate in most circumstances.

We are aware of a number of locum solicitors who work as non-practising solicitors in law firms essentially on a paralegal basis. These solicitors have received advice from the SRA and/or Law Society, that their work is perfectly valid and they are able to do this without any issues, but we remain very unsure about this advice as in most cases some elements of the work will involve some sort of advice to a client at some point, and with this, in mind, it does lead to all sorts of issues developing that are probably fairly avoidable if you get a practising certificate.

It’s not exactly as if the practising certificate is going to cost you a huge amount of money, so our normal advice is to get one and make sure it is in place before you commence any locum work.

In fact, don’t even bother applying for locum work until you have the practising certificate in place for that particular practice year, as most firms will simply decline to offer you the locum work because it’s not there and already in place.

Categories: Employers, Locums

Sometimes, and it is a fairly rare occurrence, we get a law firm who go through the whole process of finding, interviewing and accepting a locum to work for them, usually fairly long term, and everything looks good. The locum goes through the whole process of booking themselves out for a period of time, providing all their documentation, dealing with all the various queries and issues and starting work.

On the first day of work the firm welcome the locum with open arms, but after an hour or so inform them that there’s been a change of plan and rather than them working 9:30am to 5:30pm they will instead be working 10:00am until 4:00pm. This is usually because someone in the management team has worked out that if they cut one or two hours a day they will save the firm money each week.

This sounds great for the firm and you would imagine that the locum would be delighted as well because they will be working less hours and have more time to spend on other things. Nothing could usually be further from the truth. Very often the locum will be quite annoyed, whether or not the changed hours suit them. You can almost guarantee that within a matter of weeks the locum will be thinking about assignments to move on to. All because someone in the management team has decided they can save themselves a bit of money simply by cutting the hours of the locum without telling them first.

So is it a good idea to unilaterally cut locum hours?

No, absolutely not. Any firm who do this almost immediately label themselves as a problem to the locum and damage their relationship.

Locum = B2B Relationship

Unilaterally changing hours of locums is an extremely bad idea and never goes well. Locums see it as arrogance on the part of the firm, that they think they can treat them like this but not taking into account that a locum is self-employed and in control of their own circumstances (one of the many reasons lawyers turn to locuming). If locums don’t like a firm or the assignment they will simply leave and find another one.

If you consult with the locum, advise them after a short or medium period of time that circumstances have changed and you don’t actually need a locum for a full day but instead just need them for a bit of a day and ask them for their thoughts on it, this may all have a different response.

You may find that the locum is quite pleased and says, “No problem at all, I’ll source work for the other time when I’m not needed at your practice,” or is pleased that they can avoid the rush hour at the start and finish of the day, or simply that they would rather just work less hours if at all possible. It just has to be done very carefully and with an eye on the needs of the locum as well as on your firm.

Do not expect a locum to be happy about a reduction in hours if you notify them of it on their first or second day. Just think about the time you have spent recruiting a locum and how long it is going to take you to find another one when your current locum is so annoyed with you that they simply leave and find another assignment. It is really important to look after your relationship with a locum because you just never know how long you’re going to need them for, or how hard it is going to be to find someone else to replace them.

So if you have a locum working with you and you are thinking about reducing the hours, please speak to the locum and tell them your thoughts and ask for their opinion on it. You may be pleasantly surprised and find that the locum is quite happy with you changing the hours; similarly the locum might have another suggestion for you which works just as well for your practice and avoids any awkwardness.

Category: Employers

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.

Category: Employers

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.

Category: Employers

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.

Category: Employers

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 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.

Categories: Employers, Locums

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 the 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
Category: Employers

When a law firm or business uses our services to procure a locum solicitor, we charge a monthly introduction fee, which is calculated as a percentage of monies paid to the locum during their time working with your business.

The question that quite often arises is how long this fee is applicable for, and we know this has been subject to court proceedings in the past via other companies because we have been approached to comment on it and advise on our own experience. As far as we are aware, all our competitors charge their fees ad infinitum (and beyond).

Interim Lawyers will only request a fee for 18 months from the date the locum or consultant invoices you for the first time. 

We have decided that it is much easier and fairer for everyone if there is a set limit to how long we enforce our fees for.

This arrangement works particularly well if you take locums on repeat bookings or want to use a consultant for ad hoc work.

You may want to ask our competitors how long their agreements will last for. Expect a Buzz Lightyear answer.

Category: Employers

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 around 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.

Category: Employers

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.

Category: Employers

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 to 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.

Category: Employers

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 on 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.

Category: Employers

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
Category: Employers
Tag: bad locum

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

Category: Employers

For locum solicitors in the UK, the busy period every year starts in May and runs through to September. This is the timeframe when annual leave cover is booked and firms often need extra help dealing with increased caseloads during the conveyancing busy season. People tend to buy and sell houses when the weather is warm, and start looking after Easter.

There is a statistic somewhere that shows the housing market increases by over 50% during the summer months compared with winter, and unfortunately, this tends to coincide with most solicitors’ annual leave! As a result, this is a busy time of year for all concerned, and residential conveyancing locums are particularly in demand. As conveyancing is the busiest area for locum work, it follows that when the property market is busy and when most conveyancers are on annual leave, there is going to be most work available for conveyancing locums.

We have found that firms tend to fall into two categories – those who have regular locums they know will come in to provide cover on an annual basis and have been doing so for years, and those who leave it to the last minute hoping they can struggle through and then discovering that actually if they even think about it, they could end up in hot water with the SRA. There are also the unfortunates who find that their regular locum suddenly discovers they cannot cover the annual leave and leave the firm scrabbling around for a conveyancing locum at the last minute.

Other busy periods bizarrely are around January time when staff have an annoying habit of handing in their notice to start a new job in April, requiring medium to long term cover until the firm can recruit. There is also the baby boom effect that always seems to kick in around January, and we have found over the years that maternity cover requests increase.

Areas of law other than conveyancing tend to be much more ad hoc as firms don’t tend to need annual leave cover to such a degree, although family law is pretty similar to conveyancing. It is still the same though that May to September is the busier period for all areas of law as well as conveyancing, and there is usually very little work from about December through to February unless it falls into the category of staff leaving or maternity cover.

Categories: Employers, Locums

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

This is a difficult question to answer but we a produce a monthly guide which you can access by clicking here.

The hourly or daily rate is usually a matter of 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 can sometimes attract lower hourly rates but not always.

Rates of pay can depend on the time of year, level of demand, availability of locums and the location of the assignment.

Categories: Employers, Locums

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 to 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.

Categories: Employers, Locums

Tier 1 and Tier 2 Locums are the two different levels of registration available to solicitors and legal executives who want to register with us.

Tier 1 Locums will have:

  1. A full CV on our system, detailing all work to date.
  2. Proof of ID in the form of a copy of their passport or driving licence.
  3. Proof of residence – usually a bank statement or utility bill.
  4. At least one reference from employed work or locum work in the past 5 years.
  5. Undergone a background check by one of our consultants.
  6. Agreed to work to the Interim Lawyers standard locum conditions.
  7. Have a fixed hourly rate for work.
  8. Signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement with us.

Tier 2 Locums will have:

  1. Registered with InterimLawyers.co.uk to receive locum assignment updates.
  2. A CV on our system, but not necessarily up to date.
  3. Undergone a background check by one of our consultants.

Tier 1 Locums are those we work with regularly and Tier 2 Locums can either be new registrations or locums who simply want to be informed of assignments as they crop up. We do not arrange assignments for Tier 2 Locums until they have provided the documents requested, although in emergencies we may notify our clients that we have someone at Tier 2 level available.

Categories: Employers, Locums

The definition of a conveyancing locum is a lawyer who provides temporary or short term cover in a solicitors firm or licensed conveyancing practice when a fee earner (a fee earner is anyone who generates fees in a law firm), goes on annual leave, is taken ill or leaves the firm without them recruiting a new member of staff.

So a locum will be used to come in and provide a service as a contractor.

Invariably the conveyancing locum will be working as a business themselves, providing their expertise as a professional advisor to the law firm. They are usually covered by the professional indemnity insurance arrangements of the hiring business and will provide the cover during hours agreed.

The work will involve handling the caseload of the conveyancer who is absent, which will include dealing with queries on files, progressing matters to exchange or completion, handling new queries, opening new files, closing old files, dealing with completion, dealing with matters post-completion, completing SDLT forms, processing information returned by clients and solicitors or lawyers acting for the other side selling or buying the properties, and all matters involved in working in residential conveyancing.

The key point for using the services of a conveyancing locum is that they will not generate new work, they will not undertake marketing, they will not deal usually with complaints against the firm and they will not generally get involved in any internal management of the business other than to keep everything going on a day to day basis. They are there basically to ensure that cases are continued to be progressed and do not stop in the absence of a fee earner dealing with them. This is very important to bear in mind if you are a partner of a law firm and looking for locum assistance. Locums are good at what they do, but you must understand the limitations.

To become a conveyancing locum you simply need to have extensive experience in residential conveyancing and be prepared to work in different locations, sometimes at short notice. To find out all about becoming an interim lawyer or locum solicitor please visit www.interimlawyers.co.uk and read our detailed guide.

Categories: Employers, Locums

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.

Categories: Employers, Locums
Tag: locum cost

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 that introduced them. In law firms, contractors work on a self-employed basis as well, not usually via agencies unless dealing with a large multinational.

Categories: Employers, Locums

There is no difference between a locum lawyer and an interim lawyer. It is just a question of language. We set up Interim Lawyers many years ago simply because all other domain names of a similar nature have been taken! Interim lawyers are exactly the same as locum lawyers; they work on an interim or temporary basis.

In-house interim lawyers work in the same way. There has been some confusion at times because of the way local authorities use the word locum when looking for staff, and in the past, there has been a distinction between lawyers working on a fixed-term basis to cover say annual leave for two weeks, and lawyers working on an ongoing basis covering specific cases or caseloads as and when required.

Some recruitment agencies have referred to lawyers working on an ad-hoc basis but ongoing as “interim lawyers”, and lawyers working on a fixed-term basis covering annual leave or similar as “locum lawyers”.

In reality, there is no difference between the two, but the differentiation has been made because of the way some locum solicitors are paid for their work.

Some recruitment agencies have a commission deal with umbrella companies (not to be confused with a dodgy backhander of course), whereby if a locum signs with a specific umbrella company, the locum agency gets paid a fee. Locums sign up to umbrella companies to get paid for work on a fixed-term basis and the umbrella company pays them as an employee of their own limited company. We have been offered £200.00 per introduction by umbrella companies, so we can only presume that there is some considerable profit to be made in their use. Umbrella companies however are really only relevant to locums who are working on a fixed-term basis, rather than ad-hoc as and when required. Our company does not recommend using them – they are, for most people, an unwanted administrative expense. We think this is why the terms have differed with some agencies – umbrella companies are not really relevant for ad hoc interim solicitor roles and more suited to a fixed term.

Categories: Employers, Locums