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Being a legal locum in local government

An increasing number of legal professionals are becoming locums. Rayhaneh Tehrani and Laura Smith explain the reasons why this is the case, and set out what they think candidates should consider when looking for jobs in local government.

Highly-skilled legal candidates are in high demand across all sectors, and as a result, more and more organisations are thinking outside of the box when attracting the talent they need for their teams. Both the private and public sectors are now aware of the benefits that a locum can offer, from covering holiday or maternity/paternity leave, to bringing in specialist skillsets to the department during times of increased workloads in specific areas. This is making the locum market extremely buoyant in all areas of law.

This shortage of candidates and competition in the market is having a positive impact for the legal locum candidate pool as many public sector organisations are now considering candidates with the transferable skills needed to do the role, rather than previous experience within the sector. For that reason, we have started to see a real shift towards private sector candidates considering a move into local government or the public sector, in search of a more varied role and a healthier work/life balance. Due to this, an increasing number of legal professionals are deciding that locum work within the public sector, specifically local government, is the right career choice for them.

The attraction of flexible working

The benefits of locum assignments can be very attractive. Probably the biggest benefit, and the reason most of our candidates choose to become a legal locum, is the flexibility it offers, especially within local government. Working within the public sector in any role generally allows legal candidates to have a much better work/life balance, and as a locum this opportunity is even greater.

Legal locums have the ability to negotiate the terms of the position they are applying for, ensuring flexibility around the length of each contract, working hours and holidays. With careful planning, this means that a locum in the public sector can work when they want, whilst taking periods of leave to suit their lifestyle. This is something many of our locum candidates take advantage of, giving them opportunities to travel or to manage their home life around school holidays, a benefit permanent legal professionals generally will not have the opportunity to enjoy.

Great benefits and a healthy salary

Our legal locums are also attracted by the array of benefits and salaries organisations within the sector offer. A reliable and high-performing locum can demand a competitive hourly rate, which often equates to a greater amount than the salary of the permanent member of staff, whilst enjoying the same benefits. These benefits can include – but are not limited to – access to statutory sick pay, onsite parking, expenses and maternity/paternity pay.

A long and varied career

Locum assignments also allow legal professionals to try out different roles before making any huge career decisions. This gives locums a great opportunity to work on exciting projects within their specialist areas, whilst enjoying a flexible work/life balance. In this line of work legal professionals can easily pick up new skills which helps keep their career varied and interesting – often avoiding the ‘burn-out’ many legal professionals face.

One of the biggest concerns we face as legal recruiters is the perception that legal locums generally have large gaps between assignments, resulting in long periods where they are not earning. However, this could not be further from the truth. The majority of our legal locums move from assignment to assignment quickly, only taking breaks when they choose to. This is achieved with careful planning, and this is where a recruitment consultant can be a huge benefit. A consultant will have their candidate’s best interests at heart and will ensure legal locums have a new assignment set up before leaving the role they are currently in. They will also monitor the sector and keep their candidates up-to-date with any roles they feel are appropriate, allowing legal professionals the time needed to concentrate on doing well in each assignment, rather than looking for their next legal locum role.

How to secure a role

Securing a role in local government is not as difficult as candidates might expect. Previously all of our clients within this sector expected candidates to have relevant public sector experience as well as the skillsets required to do the role. Now, as a result of candidate shortages and increased demand, more and more organisations are happy to consider candidates that have experience in the specific area of law they require rather than specific public sector experience, opening doors for candidates that may want to move into local government.

For example, we recently worked with a candidate who had worked within a private firm, but had previous experience dealing with public childcare cases. As a result of their experience, this candidate was in high demand with our client base in this area.

There are also a lot of private practices that do work for public sector clients so candidates with this type of experience are very desirable.

The main thing candidates need to remember is to showcase how their legal skills are transferable. When writing a CV, legal locum candidates need to be as descriptive as possible and ensure they detail any public sector experience they have as well as any experience they have in a particular area of law. It is important to break down this experience in detailed bullet points – our clients want to see that the candidates we are putting forward have done the specific workload before, or that they have relevant transferable experience. This is something recruitment consultants will be able to help with! We also advise that legal candidates put specific examples of the kinds of cases they have dealt with, projects they may have worked on, documents they have drafted and any court work they have undertaken in the past.

Finding local government locum roles

Local government locum roles usually come about with changes in legislation, or when workloads increase so it is important to stay up-to-date at all times while working as a legal locum. For example, when the housing market boomed, the requirement and demand for property lawyers grew because local authorities required help with disposals and the selling of land. This created opportunities for legal professionals with skills in this area, so it is important candidates know where and when to look for locum assignments. Currently, the demand for childcare lawyers is growing, so it is the perfect time for any family lawyers who want to make the move to public sector.

The best way to stay up-to-date with all the latest vacancies in the public sector is to keep in regular contact with specialist legal recruitment agencies. Recruitment agencies like Sellick Partnership will be the first to know when legal assignments come available, and as the market moves quickly, roles are often filled before organisations have time to advertise them. Legal recruitment consultants will have built up a relationship with the local authorities and organisations they recruit into, and will be able to sell the skills of legal candidates and negotiate key terms of each assignment, making the process of moving between locum assignments quick and easy.

Laura Smith and Rayhaneh Tehrani are managers at recruitment specialists Sellick Partnership.

The Sellick Partnership has been helping legal locums secure assignments for over a decade and are always happy to speak with legal professionals about the opportunities in this market. If you are interested in becoming a legal locum, or want to know more about our public sector legal locum jobs, you can contact Sellick directly by calling 0161 834 1642.