Pittsburgh is second only to Washington, D.C. in the number of lawyers populating the metropolitan area. And, in a town where the bar association boasts 7,200 members, many barristers’ resumes, even those overflowing with glowing credentials, may go unread by the people who matter most.
A new company called Legal Network is attempting to ease the burden of the legal job search by linking attorneys with firms on a part-time or contractual basis that could lead to full-time work.
Formed in 1995 by attorneys Brad Franc and Karl Schieneman, the company has compiled a database of 300 lawyers spanning 2,500 legal disciplines.
The company hopes to latch on to the corporate trend toward “outsourcing” – in which companies hire outside contractors to perform duties from accounting to photocopying.
There is no fee to have a resume placed in the Legal Network database, but attorneys must go through a screening process to ensure their credentials are legitimate and that no disciplinary actions have been taken against them.
Mathew McGuire, a 35-year old attorney was in the database three months before finding work with a small firm Downtown. Mr. McGuire holds a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Pittsburgh as well as an engineering degree from Carnegie Mellon University. He obtained his law degree from Duquesne University.
He thought his education would put him ahead of the competition but the offers didn’t come as fast as he anticipated.
“I thought that when I finished with law school there would be some demand, but there wasn’t the demand I was expecting,” he said. His arrangement with Legal Network gives the prospective firm and the new lawyer a chance to see if a long-term commitment is something they both want.
“They have me come in for three weeks on a temporary basis and if they like the things I can do, they may make a full-time offer,” he said.
“It gives them the chance to see what I can do, and gives me the chance to see if I like working for them.”
The market has become so crowded that Mr. Franc says lawyers are willing to work as paralegals just to ensure income.
The majority of lawyers in Legal Network’s database are seasoned veterans.
An average attorney in the database, according to Mr. Franc has 10 to 30 years legal experience. He said the network suits attorneys who don’t have the expertise or funds to market themselves and those solo practitioners who don’t have enough work to sustain their business.
At least 15 other cities have similar organizations that offer placements for legal secretaries and paralegals. Legal Network, however, is devoted exclusively to attorneys.
The company makes money from the hourly rates charged for the attorney’s time. For instance, if the attorneys bill the network for their time at the rate of $25 an hour; the network might bill clients $35 an hour, and the matchmaking firm keeps the difference.
“We try to place 12 to 15 attorneys at any point in time,” Mr. Franc said. The founders believe this payment principle, which they borrowed from the temporary employment field will yield dividends for their company.
We are cautiously optimistic about our success,” said Mr. Franc. But he is also realistic in his expectations. “We are not going to get fabulously wealthy from this overnight.”