Should I become a locum solicitor? Deciding whether or not to take up locum work
in Careers Advice, Changing Jobs

Should I become a locum solicitor? Deciding whether or not to take up locum work

Deciding whether or not to become a locum lawyer is a popular telephone call for us. If you want a discussion about your own personal circumstances please feel free to give us a ring in confidence. You can also download our extensive ‘guide to being a locum solicitor’ from our Interim Lawyers website – the warts and all information guide for would-be locums – link at the foot of this newsletter.

Salaried staff and greener grass

We recently took a call from a solicitor in private practice who has been working in the same firm for about five years, specialising in family law, and thinking about locum because she wanted flexibility in terms of hours undertaken, the freedom to do other things in her life as well as work and to perhaps earn more than she did as a salaried member of staff.

I didn’t ask during the conversation, but no doubt there is a locum currently working in the firm, and telling the solicitor about the advantages of locuming and the fact she could earn a lot more money.

Reality of locuming

The reality of locuming is a little bit different and something that needs to be carefully thought about by anyone who has ongoing regular commitments to pay, eg mortgages. A lot of the locums listed with us could probably be described as part of the gig economy because very often they not only have a few side hustles they also have a number of ongoing commitments to clients that generate ongoing bits of work.


Locums don’t tend to just go from one assignment to the next, they tend to have a number of different things lined up that they are able to tap into for income which may or may not be very ad hoc or sporadic.

The first question to ask yourself therefore is can you go without a regular income or do your circumstances require you to have a set minimum level in order to be able to meet your ongoing commitments? If you have a good sized mortgage and family then working as a locum is probably quite a risky venture for you. You will need to have regular sources of income in order to be able to keep your commitments covered and locuming does not give you that.

Locuming gives you sporadic work, albeit usually paid at a higher level than salaried, but there is absolutely no guarantee at any stage that you will receive regular work.

Rule of Thumb

There used to be a rule of thumb for family law locums for example that they could probably expect to work about 8 months in 12 in most areas of the country undertaking maternity cover or longer term sickness cover. However the tumultuous effects of the past three years of lockdowns and an emphasis on more remote working followed by financial upheaval in the property markets in the past couple of years means that locums aren’t able to guarantee their work in quite the same way as they used to. We no longer see so many regular locum assignments coming through, and it is not possible anymore to say with certainty that locums will be guaranteed work for certain amounts of time in the year as it tends to be more sporadic with increased competition from other locums.

Location, location

The second thing to bear in mind is the geographical locations of locum work and whether or not you are comfortable with travel. Although remote working is becoming more of a thing in 2024 it is still not accepted by a good number of our clients who expect locums to attend the office. A lot of locums expect not to have to attend the office at all and keep looking for remote working assignments. There is quite a gap between the expectations of employers and the expectations of the employees and consultants when it comes to remote working and if you are looking specifically for locum work in your local area then you need to be aware that in quite a lot of circumstances there are limited opportunities available to you for local locum work.


If you are prepared to travel then there are considerably more opportunities available to you. This has to be a factor when thinking about whether or not you want to take on locum work. If you don’t want to be living in a hotel for 3 – 4 nights a week on a regular basis then doing national locum work is probably not for you.

Hourly rates

Finally a consideration needs to be made in terms of hourly rates. If you are looking for a specific hourly rate to undertake work then again probably locum work is not for you to start with. Professional locums who have been around for 20 years will have a set rate that they work for and if they don’t get it they’re not bothered about doing that assignment. When you start out in locuming you have to be prepared to consider any options really in order to get established and having a set price right at the outset probably isn’t going to do you any favours. You probably need to be prepared for hourly rates that don’t generate much more than you currently earn as an employee and to be grateful for it as this will provide the stepping stones into bigger and better things going forwards.

Lack of certainty

One final thing to note is that locums do not have any certainty of work even when they have an assignment, which can be ended at a moment’s notice for most people. Similarly if you end up working for a tyrannical lunatic of a senior partner, you can immediately leave!


In summary if you are thinking about locuming then have a read of the Interim Lawyers Guide to Being a Locum (link at the bottom of this newsletter) which includes lots of discussions about all kinds of things including the tax position, getting established, preparing your CV and lots more besides. Also think carefully about your reasoning behind thinking about locuming. The grass is definitely not greener on the other side and you do need to go into locuming for the right reasons in order to make a success of it. If you have any questions about locuming and whether or not you should become a locum please feel free to ring us for a chat as we do like to speak to potential locums to tell you as much as we can in order to enable you to make a good decision rather than one based on conjecture.

Jonathan Fagan is Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment and Interim Lawyers and has been involved in the locum business for over 20 years. If you have any questions please use our contact page and we will be happy to assist.

Guide to becoming a locum – click here to download.

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at