Bleg: Discrimination against Freelancers?

Related Post Roulette

18 Responses

  1. Avatar j r says:

    Here is my question: what is the benefit of making that last sentence of the ad illegal?

    My guess as to why the firm includes that bit is that it wants to get 20 applications instead of 2000. They want to make it easier to weed through all the applications and identify the top candidates and the top candidates are likely those folks who already have permanent gigs. You could prohibit them from doing so, but now all you are doing is forcing them to read those other 1980 resumes. They are still only likely to call back those applicants with the 5 most impressive set of credentials.Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to j r says:

      The firm could simply delete the last sentence and take the first 20 applications and ignore the rest, right?

      The reason they don’t do that is that they see steady employment as a filter with positive value.

      So, there are two questions: Is that accurate? And is that the result of something consequential, or something that is not consequential and would probably disappear after the first six months of full-time employment?

      My wild-ass guesses are 1) probably to a small degree, and 2) probably not.

      This is a sign that we still aren’t at full employment – employers might be willing to look at any resume if we were.Report

      • Avatar Drew in reply to Doctor Jay says:

        Well I don’t think you can extrapolate that we’re not at full employment from a single listing. That and law is still a very elitist profession.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Doctor Jay says:

        Unless I am misunderstanding you, I don’t think that you’re disagreeing with me. My point is that screening for lawyers with permanent firm jobs has value for this employer and that trying to make that illegal (as per Saul’s questions) is not likely to materially change the situation.Report

        • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to j r says:

          I think it’s quite likely that firms value the filter. It’s my assertion that this value is not very rational. I posit that they could do about as well with their hiring by leaving the last sentence out and looking at the first 40 resumes that come in, ignoring whether or not applicants were “contract” lawyers.

          In point of fact, I think someone could do very well by combing through the contract people for talent, and training them.

          But then, I’m also a fan of buying stock when it’s unpopular.Report

  2. Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

    In my experience, the legal industry is rife with irrational prejudices, many of them having to do with the pecking order. I got my paralegal certificate from Villanova. I have had prospective employers comment in all seriousness about the value of this based on where Villanova’s law school is in the pecking order. This is absurd, even if you don’t know that the paralegal certification program is not part of the law school. (They reluctantly let us set foot in the law library, so long as we tugged our forelocks.) The whole law school rating thing is only slightly less ridiculous.

    These hierarchical prejudices serve as a proxy for information, making them useful for those unable or unwilling to gather actual information. Someone who went to a higher-rated school is presumed to be a better lawyer than someone who went to a school lower on the totem pole. Five years of scutwork as an associate in a big downtown firm counts more than five years of handling cases in a less prestigious setting. And so on. And of course you want to hire the best lawyer for your firm. Or rather, the “best” lawyer…

    So why exclude freelancers? From the hiring partners’ perspective, they likely followed a more traditional, prestigious career route. The newly minted lawyer who was hired as an associate by the downtown firm is presumed to be a better lawyer than the one who has had to scramble to make a living. Undoubtedly these partners know that times are tough in the industry, but they haven’t internalized how this translates to jobs for new lawyers. Then there is HR. There are tons of lawyers looking for work. Any mechanism for filtering out resumes is all to the good, from HR’s perspective. Whether or not the mechanism makes sense is irrelevant.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      These hierarchical prejudices serve as a proxy for information, making them useful for those unable or unwilling to gather actual information.

      Signaling everywhere. It’s not just for anti-GMOers, anti-vaxers, nerds, and bible thumpers. Lawyers, too. A good lawyer will tell her clients how to dress and speak and sit so as to send the right signals in court.

      And that’s note even getting into radio waves, which take all this signaling to multiple layers of abstraction.Report

  3. Avatar Francis says:

    I think laziness and discrimination against non-traditional attys is sufficient explanation. If the hiring partner is in his/her late 40s or early 50s they likely graduated in the early to mid 90s, and have had a pretty stable career. A third-year associate from a large to mid-sized firm who can already see that they aren’t on a partnership path is a known commodity. You? not so much. You are tainted merely by your association with the recession.

    As to a remedy, even if California puts something into its fair employment statute, suing a prospective employer is rarely a successful career path.Report

  4. Avatar Drew says:

    Find a solo practicioner you get along with/have done work for. Some sort of mentor, whatever. For the purposes of your job-hunting resume, put down that you worked for him/her as an “associate.”

    If they call him/her up as a reference, they’re not going to ask for documented evidence that you were a full-time employee. Your person just needs to vouch for you as a good worker/not a flake.

    Alternatively-put down “Law Office of Saul DeGraw” on your resume. Perhaps even incorporate so on your resume you can put “Law Office of Saul DeGraw LLC.” Ask a mentor if you can use their office address just for employment hunting purposes. So then you’re not a contract attorney, you’re a solo practitioner building a practice who occasionally takes contract gigs.Report

  5. Avatar Will Truman says:

    This seems like a step up from only hiring people who already have jobs. In this case, only hiring people who already have a certain kind of job.

    I don’t think there are any protections you can put in place. Outside the specifics of that case, I am concerned about the effects of discrimination against the unemployed*. But it’s something that is right there on the resume and you can’t demand that they not ask current employment status the same way you can ask that they not ask about religion or sexual orientation.

    * – The Kansas City Plan – whether you approve of it or not – is actually geared specifically as something for the long-term employed due in part to concerns of discrimination of this sort. An attempt to get LTU’s back working again.Report

  6. Avatar Damon says:

    I have practical hiring experience, much to my regret…

    Once I was looking for temps and once for a full time spot. The temp position was post the recent crash. I had a former Director of Finance for a large corp apply. I didn’t choose him for several reasons: 1) he likely hadn’t done much work similar to what I needed done in decades. 2) There was no way he was going to be around long. First F/T job he found he was going to bail. 3) Likely, he was going to have an issue with taking direction from someone who, in his old org, would have been several steps below him in the food chain.

    For the full time job, I found that everyone had 2-3 years experience somewhere and then moved. Again, not what I was looking for. I wanted someone who’d had some stability. Two years in this type of work and you’re just starting to be useful and to have actual value.

    “No contract attorneys please.” = the same thing as I was looking for in the f/t job. Stability, moved down on the learning curve, experience wise, etc. And, as was said above, a way to weed out lots of potential apps easily. It’s a hiring market still. People are coming to you for a job, no need to wade through masses of folks when you’ll likely find someone good for the job even if you restrict the pool you’re fishing in.Report

  7. Avatar Notme says:


    No it’s not fair but that’s life. Clearly you are going to have to change the equation in tems of type of job, location, etc. It may not be what you what to do but you may have to do it anyway. I’ve said it but before, you should check into joining the army reserve JAG corps or going active duty.Report

  8. Avatar zic says:

    You know that myth about the “No Irish need apply” signs? Well, it seems that the notion that anti-Irish discrimination was a myth is a myth.

    So it wouldn’t surprise me if law firms are trying to weed out the chaff with similar, ‘no freelancer’ screening.

    That said, freelancing can be a great thing; but you’ve got to find how to make it into a compelling story that speaks to why someone should hire you instead of why you washed out in a tough economy. Of course, to do that, it actually helps to have done compelling things that would justify someone hiring you while freelancing.Report

  9. Avatar Vikram Bath says:

    Suppose you want to hire someone to do some random office work. You place an ad and wait for qualified applicants to apply. Instead of resumes, however, you get people from temp agencies offering their services. Or headhunters. You could conceivably work with such people to find someone, but really you just wanted to hire a person directly. So, you’ll see “no temp agencies” or “no headhunters” at the end of such ads.

    My interpretation of this ad would be something like that. They want to find an actual person who wants to be hired to be a salaried associate. They don’t want to hire someone who is going to charge them an hourly rate through their corporation and submit invoices every month.Report