Raising the Bar for Legal Staffing: Legal Network sets high standards in a constantly changing industry

A provider of legal staff for particular projects or on a permanent basis, Legal Network, Downtown, is growing by tapping into the changing work environment.

Corporations and law firms look to control costs by using contract employees, rather than in-house counsel, for certain work; and, as in many other professions, some lawyers are looking for more flexibility in their careers instead of tethering themselves to one agency.

Karl Schieneman, one of Legal Network’s three original shareholders, says his company builds its credibility by drafting articles and making presentations applicable to the legal community.

“There is no one like us anywhere as far as I can tell that analyzes legal staffing trends to the degree we do,” Mr. Schieneman said.

Karl Schieneman, one of Legal Network’s three original shareholders, says his company builds its credibility by drafting articles and making presentations applicable to the legal community.

Temping in the workplace is common in many industries and has also seeped into the legal profession now that many firms are controlling costs associated with in-house counsel. As growing number of attorneys opt for alternative work situations, the trend was bound to have a major impact in Pittsburgh, which boasts more attorneys per capita than anywhere in the United States, except for Washington, D.C.

As Legal Network has grown, it has built an impressive client list. Customers who use the firm include PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., Allegheny Energy and Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, as well as a number of other large publicly traded and privately held companies. A number of large law firms have also worked with Legal Network. The firm also works with Altman Weil, a prominent legal consulting company based in Washington, D.C.

Since Mr. Schieneman joined Legal Network full time as managing director in 1998, the form has grown dramatically. It tripled in size in 1999, and then doubled again in 2000. Its staff includes four internal employees, three of whom are attorneys. Last year, Legal Network employed several hundred attorneys on projects and found full-time placements for 50 others.

Developing the business means going through resumes and a careful screening process, making sure a lawyer’s license is in good standing and ascertaining whether the attorney has been the subject of any disciplinary actions. Legal Network meets at least three times with an attorney before matching the lawyer with a client. Legal Network sets the pricing parameters and roughly five days after receiving a request, an attorney arrives at the client’s office.

“People are always amazed at how broad our services are,” Mr. Schieneman said.

“We literally work with the entire legal community and have been innovators in both staffing organizations (and) as developing new products, such as in the document management field, for legal organizations to implement.”