Catch them young? The differences between a junior, senior and expert legal consultant
By Tina De Maere – November 29, 2023
Legal departments often struggle with many questions when deciding to hire a new legal profile. Which part of our budget can we allocate? Do we want an interim consultant or a permanent employee? And of course: what kind of profile are we looking for?
The first hurdle to cross, therefore, is defining the function and the responsibilities of the new potential employee or consultant. This means that your legal department, often with the help of HR, has to decide whether to hire a junior, senior or expert profile. But what exactly are the differences between these types of lawyers?
Junior: quick learners with fresh ideas
A junior lawyer is usually someone with 0 to 5 years of experience in the legal profession. This experience can be gained either as an attorney or a freelancer or in-house as a legal counsel. Some junior lawyers have already acquired some experience as a freelance legal consultant, others prefer to broaden their expertise in a permanent function first, before making the next step in their career and becoming independent legal advisors.
The most obvious advantage of hiring a junior counsel is the fact that they usually ask for a lower salary. In return, they will require more guidance and training than a senior lawyer.
This, however, should not be a downside. Junior consultants are quick learners and bring fresh and new ideas to the table. If a legal department accompanies its newbees well, supports them in their journey, appreciates their work and rewards them accordingly, chances are great that they will deliver much needed added value in time and stay loyal to your company or department. Who knows, they might even consider signing a permanent contract and becoming your next valuable employee…
A disadvantage might be that young people don’t always immediately know what they want in life. This might increase their risk of job hopping and leaving companies quickly in the first years of their career. For temporary assignments, however, this should pose any problems, since few consultants will terminate their contracts early when they are concluded for a limited amount of time.
Senior: solid base and quick return
Senior lawyers are legal consultants or counsels with at least 5 years of experience. Just like juniors, they may have gained this experience in a permanent function, but many senior consultants prefer working as independent professionals.
The biggest advantage of working with senior advisors is their autonomy. Unlike junior counsels, senior advisors don’t need much training and guidance. Usually, they are able to produce advice without having to ask many questions. They are operational from day 1 and can even lead complex projects as legal interim managers using their experience acquired in previous positions.
Next to that, senior consultants can transfer their expertise and methods from previous employers or clients to your company. They have a solid base and deliver quick returns. They can provide new insights, deliver legal and strategic advice and even train other employees or consultants in their own legal niche. These trainings don’t necessarily need to be limited to the legal department.
The biggest downsides of working with senior consultants are their price tag and their availability. Because many senior legal consultants work for different clients at the same time, they will generally not be available every day of the week. And if they work on a full-time contract, this will only be for a limited amount of time.
Naturally, you could consider hiring a senior counsel on a permanent basis. However, this would mean you would have to pay a higher salary for an undetermined period. On top of that, their severance will also be higher in case of downsizing.
Expert: problem-solver for highly specialized projects
Last but not least, experts are lawyers who have gained decades of experience in their own legal niche. They often possess highly specialized knowledge in very specific fields of law (for instance a business lawyer who has worked for different financial institutions during their career or an IP lawyer who has worked on patent cases his entire life).
It is mainly useful to hire these types of profiles for very specific questions or complex projects in highly specialized legal domains. Experts work almost exclusively on interim or freelance assignments, but can provide the best advice faster than any other lawyer could.
Obviously, legal experts are the most expensive kind, but their advice will always be top notch, flawless and on time.Ready to find the perfect legal consultant for your interim or permanent vacancy? Register now on https://platform.limine.be/ and find your ideal candidate today!