in Careers Advice, Employers, Legal Profession

Bad Locums – avoiding them and bad law firms

Locums – avoiding bad firms and bad locums

Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment handles both permanent and locum vacancies. We assist with locum assignments via our website

Every locum we arrange work for is checked out and we get proof of ID, proof of residence, copies of practising certificates and attempt to get two references on file. Obtaining references for locums is increasingly difficult, caused mainly by a general reluctance from firms to express an opinion on the work carried out by a locum. This can be very frustrating, especially when the firms who express reluctance to provide detailed references are usually those who expect them to be detailed when we put locums forward to them! We do a background check online as well for each locum and make sure nothing untoward comes up. We do not use locums if they cancel assignments without good reason, fail to turn up, try to haggle on the hourly rate after one has been agreed, or generally make things difficult for us! Some firms give us feedback on assignments after a locum has been working there and we use this to determine future work.

All very well and good, particularly for the benefit of our clients, but how do we vet law firms? With great difficulty at times, but we do vet clients. There are a couple of ways of doing this. Firstly we have been in recruitment since April 2000 and there are certain law firms and partners we know of from our time in the industry that it would be unwise to introduce a locum to – whether this is because their working practices are awful, they fail to pay on time or they agree to a time frame for a locum and then reduce it dramatically without any good reason.

Secondly we use locum feedback. Locums will report back if there is a difficult working environment, payment times are poor, the firm have dangerous or potentially fraudulent working practices, or expectations for the work a locum will do are intolerable. Also if a firm book a locum for a week say and then decide to reduce this to 3 days after the first day without any good reason we would be hesitant about sending others there in the future.

A couple of examples. Firstly one of our locums had terrible problems getting paid by a firm somewhere in England. The locum reported this to us and ended up issuing proceedings against the firm to get paid. We had to do the same. Needless to say when the same firm logged another assignment with us we politely declined!

Secondly a locum reported back to us that there was a problem with the secretaries at a firm where the locum had been left to deal with the principal’s workload. This has been an occasional issue over the years of recruitment – some secretaries in smaller law firms seem to go out of their way to ensure that the work of a locum is bordering on the impossible by giving them the wrong information about cases, refusing to undertake tasks or generally avoiding helping the locum at all. They then feed back to the principal who returns from annual leave to find that not a lot has been done and blame the locum.

We are very cautious about firms and locums – it works both ways. Locums are reluctant to trust us if we send them to dubious clients, and clients are reluctant to use us if they find locums are no good. Reputation is everything..

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment – you can contact him via

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 17 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at