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Overworked? 7 Tips on How to Get Part-Time Help, Legally

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on May 28, 2015 4:25 PM

Feeling swamped with extra work, but not enough to justify hiring full time assistance? Part-time employees can be a great way to spread out your workload, whether you're hiring contract attorneys, interns, or support staff.

Part-time employees, like any new hire, require that you pay close attention to the rules and regulations governing part-time work and law practices. Here's seven tips that will help you take advantage of part-time work without the legal pitfalls:

1. Unpaid Help? Check the Law. If you're looking to take on law students, unpaid interns, "volunteering" recent grads or other easily exploitable workers, make sure you're not violating any state or federal laws. Unpaid internships have to meet specific requirements, which can vary between strict and nominal from state to state. Similarly, hiring students and unbarred grads means you will have to comply with your state bar's oversight rules for non-attorney assistants.

2. Screen for Conflicts. If you're bringing in a practicing lawyer, remember that their conflicts are part of the package. Ask for a list of former clients to cross check against any instances where your firm has represented an adverse party. Keep in mind that conflicts can develop after a lateral lawyer is hired, as the firm brings on new clients, so conflict checking should be a continuous process.

3. Manage Payroll. If you're operating in a small firm or a solo practice, make sure you have your payroll practices down as you consider bringing on extra help. You might take a DIY approach with a program like Quickbooks, or hire a service to handle it for you.

4. Get Ready for Taxes. You will need to make sure you are complying with local, state and federal tax withholdings. Have employees verify employment eligibility with an I9 and fill out federal W4 and state withholding forms.

5. Track Hours. If you're paying by the hour, make sure you have a reliable tracking system. Be sure to review your state's wage and hour laws and remember that even small amounts of unpaid overtime can cause legal headaches well after an employee has left.

6. Call the Doctor. You may need to provide any new employees with healthcare coverage under Obamacare. Take steps to make sure you're complying with the Affordable Care Acts employer mandate.

7. Verify. If an employee is going to be working with client funds or sensitive information, run a criminal background check. Confirm any certifications or licenses listed on the resume and call references to make sure there are others who can speak to the candidate's skill and character.

Got any other tips? Let us know via Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals).

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