What does it take to be a locum?

Posted in Latest News on 30 Nov 2017

I've been asked this question several times and each time I somehow manage to give a different answer. I have worked within locum or "temp" recruitment for 5 years and have dealt with a wide variety of people from support workers, nurses, engineers, warehouse workers, welders, and of course, those of you in the Legal sector. The variables that come in to play can be quite staggering, but the questions remain universal. Could you give up a guaranteed salary? Are you able to live comfortably if there's no work for a month or maybe even longer? More so, do you, as a candidate feel safe and secure?

Why then do people make the move and become professional locum workers? For the majority, the benefits massively outweigh these considerations, however, they do highlight though that locum work may not be everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve found that it takes flexibility, adaptability, resilience and a tenacious attitude, and knowledge to be a locum professional.


The freedom flexible working can offer is an obvious benefit. We have several temps who work anything from a couple of days a week to more full-time hours to the standard five day working week. Depending on the assignment, and the client’s needs, this could either be short-term or long-term. Childcare cover, looking after a loved one, and study commitments are common reasons why candidates have made the transition to work on a temporary basis. On the flip side to suit these requirements, our workers also have to be flexible- whether this is in the technicalities of immediate start-dates and location, or in terms of mental attitude.


Working on a temporary or locum basis also gives you the opportunity to gain new skills and experience. I’ve always been a huge proponent of the ethos “there’s always something new to learn” and whilst you may already have a compendium of knowledge, there’s certainly more that can be picked up. Whether that’s adapting to another firm’s processes, streamlining your own technique, or even just keeping up to date with new legislation. 

It’s extremely beneficial to learn from as many people as you can and take those new lessons into your next placement. The capacity to learn and process new information as well as negotiate the environments of different businesses are key skills that are central to adaptability.

As your experience grows, depending on the client, it is likely that you could be recalled to work on new projects or have your contract extended. At Douglas Scott we have a pool of reliable, hard-working professionals who are often recalled to reprise their roles or undertake similar positions with another of our clients.

Resilience and Tenacity

Professional locum workers are highly self-motivated individuals with personal development regularly at the forefront of their considerations. It’s up to them to spot gaps in their CV, areas of possible improvement, and to be on the look out for courses or programmes to supplement their practical skills. As they are not woven into the fabric of a firms or businesses permanent culture, the investment a company places on individuals, for pragmatic reasons, is sometimes not as readily available to those on short-term assignments. It takes a proactive and tenacious approach to secure these additional opportunities on an individual basis rather than through a company structure.

Keeping up with the fast-paced nature of locum and temp work is also a big consideration, especially with regards to the forward planning of your next assignment. Organisation is crucial but so is the right frame of mind. A methodical approach to scheduling work in the anticipation of your next move and utilising the help of your locum recruitment consultant is advantageous. Your proactive manner is a sign of your resilient and tenacious attitude.

Pay can be lucrative. The rates for locum and temp positions can vary from the single digits (£7-9 per hour) to upwards of £50-60 per hour. Whilst this can be extremely attractive, recent market research suggests that rates are not as high as they used to be in certain practice areas. Personal Injury for example, with the recent unrest surrounding the Jackson reforms, is one of them. The legal market is subject to turbulence and transformation, resilience here is important. An enthusiastic approach in circumstances that are not always ideal is an attractive quality and demonstrates perseverance and dedication.

Specialist Knowledge

Locum workers, usually with wide range of experience and expertise, provide stability to firms under temporary strain due to holidays or illness. Finding cover allows clients to rest easy knowing that cases are still being worked on. The customer is always key and with the firms being proactive in their management, their clients may not even realise that someone new is currently assisting them.

Specialist maternity leave cover is another demand. These assignments often come with set contract lengths but securing such work can have huge benefits too. It gives candidates the option to further showcase their abilities, which could even come with a permanent contract at the end. It certainly doesn’t pay for a firm to let excellent candidates slip through the net.

It’s not always absence that creates a need for temporary recruitment though. There are a wide variety of specialist projects, document production for example, that are becoming more prominent features of the temp landscape. These projects require a very large number of personnel at extremely short notice and often come with distinct requirements. Specialists in certain areas such as finance, real estate, due diligence review are often desired as well as those with language skills. When such important projects come on board, hiring specialists on a temporary basis is often the most efficient approach for the client.

Whilst specialist knowledge is preferable, cover for generalist positions is also in high demand. These general positions help you build up experience and enable locum workers to demonstrate true diversity.

Locum workers are now more important than ever. With the fantastic team we have here at Douglas Scott, you can rest easy knowing that your position in the market is valued and needed.

In short, what does it take to be a locum? It may take flexibility, adaptability, a resilient and tenacious attitude, as well as specialist knowledge. But, most importantly, it takes you.


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