Career Center Site To Serve Laid-Off Attorneys

By Rebekah Hearn

Memphis Legal Placement Inc., a program of the Memphis Bar Association, earlier this week launched a new Attorney Career Center Web site to help laid-off or unemployed attorneys find local work.

Memphis Legal Placement has been operating since 1984 to help find jobs for legal staff, such as paralegals and legal secretaries. MLP has had a link to its Web site for that service for several years, but this newly launched Career Center focuses on attorneys, and unlike the rest of MLP, which charges employers a nominal fee to place a job availability ad, the Attorney Career Center is free of charge.

The Web site has taken off quickly. The MBA e-mailed an announcement about the new Attorney Career Center on Monday, and by Wednesday morning the site had recorded 381 hits, said Dottie McCallen, the communications director at the MBA.

“Clearly, there was a need for a service such as this in the local legal community,” McCallen said in an e-mail.

Hard times for all

Anne Fritz, the MBA’s executive director, said she wanted to help attorneys who are seeking work, as well as legal staff.

After attending the annual meeting of the National Association for Bar Executives earlier this year, Fritz returned with the idea for the Career Center.

She and Mary Lynes, the president of MLP, put their heads together and came up with the Attorney Career Center.

“We thought the MLP was the logical place to put the Career Center since (Lynes) already did support staff and everything,” Fritz said.

“It’s our attempt to help attorneys who have been laid off find jobs and employers, law firms … who have jobs, to post them on the site with no charge.”

Lynes was out of town this week and wasn’t available for comment by press time.

The MBA doesn’t keep track of how many lawyers have lost jobs locally, but Bass, Berry & Sims PLC recently announced it was letting go of 32 employees, including two lawyers and four staff members from the firm’s Downtown Memphis office.

While it’s not unusual for a law firm to avoid publicly announcing layoffs, especially those of lawyers, Fritz said she doesn’t think Memphis has been hit as hard with the attorney layoffs.

“I don’t think we’ve had the layoffs like in some of the larger cities,” Fritz said.

One local change that could cost some attorneys their jobs is the Tennessee Department of Human Services’ new contract with Maximus, a private government services agency, to provide child support services to Memphis and Shelby County residents.

DHS issued a press release earlier this month announcing its contract with Maximus and, as a result, the move of the Shelby County child support office from the Shelby County Juvenile Court on Adams Avenue to a new location on South Mendenhall Road.

A representative at DHS told The Daily News he was not sure, but he could speculate that some of the attorneys who had been serving as referees for the court may not have been hired by Maximus or by the court, but he couldn’t give any specific information.

Fee free

There are no fees associated with the Attorney Career Center, Fritz said. Attorneys who are MBA members can post their resumes for free and employers can post job openings at no charge.

With MLP’s legal staff placement program, there is a fee to place an ad for a job. That fee amounts to either 10 percent of the future employee’s first-year salary or “reasonable hourly rates for temporary employees (to) cover all payroll costs including taxes and insurance,” according to the MLP Web site.

Consumers of either service – legal staff or attorney placement – never pay fees, according to the Web site.

But for attorneys, Fritz said she wanted to keep the program free all around. This method also will encourage employers to post available jobs, helping boost the number of lawyers MLP assists.

Attorneys who wish to post their information can put their resumes up on the site. If they wish to remain anonymous, they can put a summary of their experience and qualifications, Fritz said.

Although MLP does provide a screening service for legal staff – so charging fees is necessary for the bar to continue providing that service – the program will not screen attorneys.

“For (the Attorney Career Center), we wanted this to be free, so basically we’re just a conduit,” Fritz said. “You can post your resume; you can search for jobs; employers can post attorney jobs.”

The Attorney Career Center Web site is still very much in its infancy, and Fritz said that at this time, the bar has no immediate plans to expand it to offer additional services.

“But I’m sure we will,” Fritz said. “I’m sure something will come up.”