A recent conversation with an excellent lawyer who is “open to work” this week led us to fully debate the pros and cons of taking a contract position when you’d really prefer a permanent job. I thought it worth sharing some points to consider.
Contract positions come up for different reasons – maternity covers, waiting for permanent hires to start, project work, sabbatical cover, budget restrictions and head count freezes.
Although mostly an option for immediately available lawyers, some permanent employees are also considering contracts and employers will sometimes wait for the 1 or 3 months’ notice. Whilst a maternity cover isn’t likely to wait, if employers plan well ahead, or can delay the start of the project, these roles can be open to permanent employees too.
In previous times some saw contracting as second rate, but thanks to the likes of Axiom, Peerpoint Simmons Adaptive etc., contracting or consulting is now an alternative career and can offer quality legal skills to employers.
- Nearly 50% of the people we place in contract roles become permanent or get their contracts extended. If you know why they are hiring, you can get a good idea about whether there is a chance of it becoming permanent.
- Many people move on from permanent roles after 2 or 3 years now anyway, so if your contract is extended once or twice it could easily last as long as a permanent role.
- It can be a great way of getting in-house experience. Employers looking for contractors don’t have as much choice in the market so are often more flexible and will consider those without in-house experience.
- If you are not sure about in-house, the industry, or the company, you get the chance to “try before you buy” without having to commit to a permanent role and then resign.
- Contracting can also allow you to try new sectors, work in different size and types of organisation.
- You can get variety in your work by moving between contracts.
- You don’t get included in any office politics, a big one for many of the lawyers we speak to.
- Contract work can be more lucrative, especially useful if you’ve had some time out of work.
- There are rarely any career prospects or development opportunities. This is particularly problematic for more junior lawyers who still have lots to learn and might find they get stuck at a certain corporate title and pay grade. It can work better for senior lawyers, and people often consider contracting when they have already had fulfilling careers.
- There is a danger of being out of work between contracts, although some use this to their advantage.
- If your contract isn’t extended, you will become immediately available and are likely to get offered another contract before securing a permanent job. Recruitment process for contracts are much shorter and quicker. If your preference is a permanent role, there is then a danger that you become a “contractor”, moving from one contract to the next.
- It can be very difficult to get back into permanent work once you have completed a few contracts, as employers are looking for commitment and career progression.
- Sometimes you can be treated like a “contractor”. You might only be given a certain level or type of work when you could do more, you might not be included in meetings, the business might not make the same effort to get to know you etc. if they know you are not there for long.
- You have to re-learn the industry, company and who the people are every time you move contracts.
- A jumpy CV can put employers off. Most will be looking for continuity or at least a good reason for the moves you have made.
- If you’re thinking of leaving a permanent role or would really prefer permanent work don’t take anything less than a 12 month contract.
- Think about whether you can afford to be out of work at the end of the contract, and how any gaps in your work history might affect your CV.
- Don’t act like a contractor. Don’t turn up and do the bear minimum thinking that you will complete the contract then move back to a career role. Turn up with a permanent mindset, going the extra mile, act like a permanent member of staff. Then you can go some way towards making yourself indispensable.
- Don’t accept a contract role that you wouldn’t want to take on a permanent basis unless you need to. Getting a legal counsel position with a water company is not going to help you get into an investment bank, so make sure there is something to add to your CV and new experience with every position you take.
To discuss your options please contact Tracy or Jane for a confidential discussion.