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Everything you need to know about locums

How do I select a locum?

Firstly you need to identify what you require assistance with.

Locums are not pre-retirement seat warmers, they are there to serve your clients and your practice. Locum arrangements may be full-time or part-time and are generally of fixed duration. Your locum may be onsite or remote, depending on your practice set-up.

Locums can assist practitioners maintain both positive professional careers and healthy personal relationships and lifestyles by enabling them to take periodic breaks away from their practice, or to assist with matters within the practice when a helping hand is needed.

The Queensland Law Society Locum Register notes panel members by practice areas and geographic location serviced. Some of the locums hold principal practising certificates and are able to fully supervise your practice, others may take on the role of a file author and have the conduct of files.

Once you have located a locum who services your geographical area, and your legal practice areas via the QLS locum panel directory, you should then reach out to the locum to ascertain their availability and fee rate. It is up to you and the locum to negotiate an appropriate fee.

If you have never engaged the services of a locum before, Lexon Insurance has a Locum and Contract Lawyer pack on its website available for Lexon-insured practices. The pack highlights some of the issues you may wish to consider when engaging a locum.1

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It is important you prepare a list of your requirements before you start your search.

When should I search for a locum?

Every small practice should have a relationship with a locum practitioner. Ideally your need for a locum would be for a planned event (such as a holiday) and you will book the locum in advance.

However, if an unforeseen event occurs, a locum may be required at short notice.

If you have an ongoing relationship with a locum, you (and your staff) have the opportunity to build-up trust and a strong relationship. The locum gains knowledge about your practice and clients, and builds on that knowledge with each engagement. The locum effectively becomes an extension of your team.

How much do I pay a locum?

This will depend on the terms of engagement. Is the locum required full-time or part-time? Do you require the locum onsite or can they supervise your practice remotely? Will you pay the locum a travel allowance? Some locums also house sit for you if you are taking a holiday, otherwise you might need to offer suitable accommodation.

How do I make my engagement of a locum as effective as possible?

As with everything in legal practice, communication is key! Setting realistic expectations from the outset, and communicating those expectations, is important.

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A locum’s role can extend well beyond file management, and those business management duties should be clearly defined.

Will the locum be supervised or supervising? Will they be responsible for taking on new clients? Will they be managing your trust account, general account, file audit programs?

For planned locum arrangements you should have a file handover process – this might range from a list of files requiring action, a task list, to a file note on each matter providing a brief background and expected next steps.

Checklists, precedents and practice policies can also assist locums and you should communicate the existence of these quality controls, and expectations around their use, during the engagement process.

If you are interested in knowing more about locums, the QLS Practice Advisory Service and Business Advisory Services may be a great place to start! You can either submit an expression of interest or enquire via ethics@qls.colm.au today.

Footnote
1 lexoninsurance.com.au/Managing_your_risk/Locum_Risk_Procedure_Pack (login required).

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