In the Old Neighborhood (Jersey City, New Jersey, 1960s), the guy who fixed cars for peanuts would have been informed by other guys who fixed cars for much more that such monkey business had to stop. Of course, it did stop.
Managing rogue workers isn't so easy any more, though.
Most fields, ranging from law to writing, are glutted. That means those farming out work to free agents will cut or at least try to compensation. They will also play around other terms and conditions. For example, to even get in the box, you might have to do a non-paid three-hour assignment. Most newbies will think nothing of accepting below-market wages and doing backflips such as taking upaid tests to qualify to submit an application.
These dynamics are well known to contract lawyers. On Abovethelaw.com, Alex Rich chronicles compensation markdowns in document review. So far, it seems Rich, who has been a free agent for several years, can hold his own.
Some detached watchers of the contract labor market might blame experienced workers for even approaching the same sandboxes as newbies. If they were smart about the game and good at what they do, goes the thinking, they should have not even have to be anywhere near the toddlers' play area. The two markets are very different. Yeah, JDs out there five years, get back to your own digging area.
Such a blaming mindset assumes linear conditions in earning a living. The reality is continual disruption. Four months of non-stop assignments could be followed by nothing. To keep up skills and contacts, it's downright necessary to grab whatever. It is so obvious to those doling out work whose ability to hit the ground running has atrophied. You bet, you walk, talk and smell stale. To get my workplace persona back where it should be, after a year out of the workforce, my executive coach had me take a menial job. I needed it.
So, what can experienced JDs, et al. do to manage the labor part of the marketplace? Here are five musts.
Get much better at marketing so you don't get into the pickle of no work. Marketing is a constant. There is no time off from it during peak work periods. Hustling is the new oxygen.
Gain additional skills. That increases options for assignments. Those skills don't have to be associated with law per se. Why not learn coding.
Investigate who the miscreants are who accept peanuts. This is necessary data.
Organize. Join with others to plan strategies and conduct the intervention to halt unfair competition at the low end.
Acquire power. Don't underestimate the fear level of employers. They could be convinced to discontinue exploiting labor.
On an informal basis, in my field of writing, already there is push-back against both the newbies willing to put up with anything and employers. This is about making a good iving. And that we are doing.