Locum Dilemna – what do I do if a firm cancels an assignment at short notice?
For a full detailed list of FAQs on locums and a guide on how to be an successful locum please visit www.interimlawyers.co.uk
“Hi Jonathan. I was booked back in February for a conveyancing role to last for a week plus a few extra days at the start (Thurs and Friday). As you can imagine I received many other locum opportunities and offers between the time of booking and starting, several of which were for a higher rate, but turned them down to honour this booking. I surmised that as they had booked so far ahead it was particularly important to have cover during that period as conveyancing locums are at a premium. To my astonishment, at 4pm on the Friday they told me that the department was quieter than expected and that they didn’t need me the following week . It was too late at 4pm on a Friday before the bank holiday to obtain anything else and so I have lost a lot of money. What sort of notice should I have been given? Couldn’t it be argued that this was a contract for a fixed period ?”
I start this article by writing explicitly that this is not intended to be legal advice in any shape or form but rather practical information on the way locum assignments work.
Firstly the whole reason firms like using locums is because they offer flexibility. In the same way that Sports Direct and other similar companies have used zero hours employment contracts solicitors firms have found it beneficial (quite understandably in our opinion) to take on self-employed consultants to assist when they get busy or have a fee earner away on annual leave.
Secondly part of this flexibility is that either side can terminate the arrangement without notice at any time – in the past this has been as short as 10 minutes (“we don’t want you to continue please leave immedaitely”) to 2-4 weeks notice on a longer term assignment.
Thirdly very few locums agree contracts with solicitors firms at the start of their assignments. This is an option to consider to avoid incidents like the one above, but to date I know of very few law firms who would agree to this. However we are actively considering requiring contracts in future for short term summer bookings made more than 3 months in advance which provide for compensation for locums if the law firm pull out through no fault of the locum.
So the advice is to do nothing other than bill the firm for your time as usual and accept that this is part and parcel of being a locum…
Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and a specialist locum solicitor recruiter. You can contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Always happy to give quotes to the media..