Is the legal industry adapting quickly enough to meet new demands driving the future of work?

 

The future of work. What are the trends driving the attraction of talent? How are companies, legal teams and professional organisations such as law firms adapting their resourcing strategies as a result of the pandemic and Great Resignation? How can you be best placed as a legal consultant to thrive in your career as economic uncertainty and geopolitical instability continues?

We explore the key learnings from a recent panel discussion on the future of work in the legal industry hosted by Richard Chaplin, Founder and Chief Executive at Managing Partner’s Forum. Richard was joined by panellists Steve Ingham, Chief Executive Officer at PageGroup, Dana Denis-Smith, CEO and Founder of Obelisk Support, Catherine Baker, Founder and Director and Sport and Beyond and Meirion Jones, Director at Tongues In Trees Ltd.

Re-tuning your Firm: Dana Denis-Smith, CEO and Founder of Obelisk Support 

Flexible working comes of age

Re-tuning your firm: Steve Ingham, Group Chief Executive of Page Group

The post-Covid Recruitment market

The future worker: A new strategy to talent 

 

Attracting and retaining the right people is one of the top challenges facing law firms and employee turnover is often cited in the media as one of the biggest constraints to growth for law firms. As Steve Ingham highlights, staff turnover impacts client relationships, staff morale and recruitment is expensive.

So why do people leave their jobs? Steve highlights the reasons employees voice the most, whether they are working full time or contracting, reasons which are often not brought up in exit interviews:

  • A mismatch between the values of the employee or consultant and their direct line manager
  • A lack of focus on issues important to employees such as diversity, inclusion and ESG
  • The organisation lacks purpose and does not live their values or align their values with the

Honing in on diversity and inclusion, Steve further highlights that 20% of the population are disabled in some way, and that not all disabilities are visible. Yet, many candidates highlight that offices often not accessible to their needs.

With a lens on the legal industry, Dana Denis-Smith agrees that permanent change is needed in how we reimagine the future of work.

Dana explains that for legal consultants there is a concern over whether law firms understand them and are ready to accommodate their needs and how they want to work. On the other hand, legal teams and general counsel are more open to flexibility, often having chosen a career in-house driven by a desire to achieve a better work / life balance.

Yet even among in-house legal teams, Dana notes there remains resistance to alternative resourcing strategies. As a result, there is still a lot of education is needed around the benefits of remote and flexible work, how to approach job design differently and how to successfully manage hybrid, remote and flexible teams.

The future of hiring: Two trends not to ignore

 

The pandemic has given many pause for thought. Am I working in the right organisation? In the right sector? Am I doing the right job? At the same time the barriers for exploring new job opportunities have dropped – providing the perfect storm for candidate shortages.

 

 

Trend #1: Speed of hiring is accelerated

 

According to Steve, in the past when looking for a new role, your investment was high. Likely you would have needed to go for a physical interview, take a day of annual leave or have to lie – neither of which is appealing. However, post pandemic we see a very different picture.

Now it is a zoom call at 6pm, with follow-up interviews 2 and 3 taking place the following week – and you have landed a job.

 

 

Trend #2: Easier to consider your options

 

As a result of interviews being quicker and easier to access, Steve notes that even if you are mildly unhappy in your current job, the barriers to looking for alternatives is much lower.

There is much less commitment required to go for a few video interviews to explore the market, understand what salaries are being offered and what companies are doing in terms of employee branding to attract new talent.

This is also meaning that people are considering jobs that they would otherwise not have considered.

 

The future of work: Three essential lessons for clients

 

The pandemic has given many pause for thought. Am I working in the right organisation? In the right sector? Am I doing the right job? At the same time the barriers for exploring new job opportunities have dropped – providing the perfect storm for candidate shortages.

 

 

Lesson #1: Consider new resourcing strategies

 

teve notes that the Page Group operates across 37 markets, the UK making up 14% of the group and across the board the business is performing at record levels in every single market. Yet despite the existence of candidate shortages in most areas – hiring approaches are sticking to tried and tested methods which no longer work rather than focusing on the things which are important to employees.

Rather than continuing to fish in the same pools, when looking at your resourcing strategy organisations must think broader. For example, it is known that increased team diversity improves problem solving, team performance and bottom-line profits, yet do organisations think about the last time they interviewed someone in a wheelchair or with a visible disability?

Dana echoes this approach. She explains that Obelisk Support is about helping communities that have been disenfranchised by the existing model thrive in their careers. To achieve this goal, she highlights how, when Obelisk Support started out that it was important to first understand the needs of legal consultants otherwise excluded from work opportunities for various reasons and understand how to keep them connected to the legal sector and find opportunities for them.

 

 

Lesson #2: Embrace flexibility

 

When it comes to new resourcing strategies Dana also emphasises the importance of embracing flexibility. When she started Obelisk Support, she was acutely aware that City lawyers, highly qualified women, especially mothers were being forced out of the market as organisations were reluctant to accommodate flexible and remote working.

For her, the biggest opportunity from the pandemic is the right to flexible work. The pandemic provided a mass market, global experiment which proved that remote and flexible working did not reduce productivity or performance of law firms.

Legal consultants want to work flexibly. To control the hours they work and the location where they work. Highly experienced, home-based legal consultants understand how to work around their other commitments.

To achieve a win-win model, Dana explains it is important to reduce the friction between the client and consultant requirements. Key is understanding what flexibility means to the consultants translates into what flexibility means for the clients.

And embracing flexibility is becoming more pertinent.

Independent research commissioned by Velocity Smart Technology “ Changing behaviours of a flexible workforce in 2022 and beyond” reveals that almost half of UK workers (47%) are ready to walk away from their current job and look for new opportunities if flexibility if not provided by their employer, rising to 60% in workers aged 25 – 34.

Yet, almost half of UK businesses (48%) are insisting that their employees return to the workplace, at least on a part time basis.

This is also meaning that people are considering jobs that they would otherwise not have considered.

 

 

Lesson #3: Focus on the right metrics

 

For both Dana and Steve, a key concern is that clients have not fully understood the depth of change that has happened and adjusted their resourcing strategies sufficiently.

Dana reflects on how, prior to the pandemic, her business would often put forward disabled lawyers, however, it was difficult for clients to overcome the mobility challenges faced with wheelchairs as an example. The focus was on the wrong metrics: Are you willing to come into an office in a specific location? Are you willing to work set hours?

As a former employment lawyer, this did not sit well with Dana and she felt passionately that the legal profession could not continue to treat highly skilled talent in this way. Rather, the focus should be on technical ability and outcomes.

 

“We should not have needed a talent shortage for people to be seen for their talent rather than their protected characteristics”

Dana Denis-Smith

CEO and Founder, Obelisk Support

In conclusion

 

According to Dana Denis-Smith there needs to be a cultural shift in the legal industry. More education is needed on how to embrace flexibility properly. This involved listening from the ground up, shaping policies and adapting working methods to set people up for success. Her hope is that with a push from the in-house community and from the legal consultant community – the time for old ways of working is really up.

Thriving in your legal career: Resilience and lessons from sport

For many of us, macro factors such as the ongoing pandemic, geopolitical instability and the cost-of-living crisis, plus our individual work and life challenges, are leading to burnout and exhaustion.

Catherine Baker, Founder and Director at Sport and Beyond explores how you can build your resilience and protect yourself.

Tennis

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