Should I Accept a Contract Attorney Position?

The economy during the last several years has been difficult.  Attorneys, like many other workers, have been faced with very tough choices.  One of the dilemmas faced by attorneys has been whether to accept “contract” work while they continue to search for full time associate positions.  “Contract” work can take a variety of forms.  Sometimes attorneys are hired to work on one long term project.  Other times the projects are much shorter in duration; and are more like “temporary” assignments.  When attorneys are contemplating accepting a contract position, they usually have many questions.  Are some types of contract positions better than others?  What are the benefits of accepting a contract position?  What are the risks?

Long Term Contract Positions Are Superior to Short Term Positions.

Future employers will of course evaluate a contract attorney’s experience; and long term contract positions are viewed more favorably.  The theory is that a candidate’s experience is “deeper” if he has been employed on a long term project rather than on a series of short term projects.  Even if the work – e.g. document review – on a long term project is comparable (or perhaps even identical)  to the work performed on an assortment of short term projects, the perception is that long term projects are superior because such projects provide the candidate with more substantive experience.  If you are fortunate enough to be able to choose among several contract positions, do not necessarily be swayed by the “bigger” name, as a short term position with a Top 20 firm may be much less beneficial for your career than a long term position with a less well known firm.

What Are the Benefits of Contract Positions?

There are two obvious benefits to contract positions: income and experience.  The former does not need any additional embellishment regarding its value!  However, the latter is very important and relates to the point above re: long term versus short term projects.  When you have a choice among contract positions, you should try to discern precisely what you will be doing and whether, assuming you perform well on your initial tasks, there is the opportunity to be upgraded to better and more sophisticated work.  The quality and depth of your experience are what future permanent employers will value; and therefore, you should evaluate all potential contract positions with these twin considerations in mind.