By Legal Futures’ Associate SpeechWrite Digital
Who are flexible working solicitors?
According to the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (ENEI), when employees are given the autonomy and empowerment to choose when and where they work, this creates a culture that removes artificial measures of success (such as logged hours or constant visibility within an office) and actually allows employers to focus on what’s important – results and performance.
In fact, since 2014, all employees have had the right to officially request flexible working – something that has become more important in recent years; with increasing focus being placed on shared parenting, equal opportunities and personal productivity. Indeed, flexible working has moved beyond simply allowing employees to start or finish work at different times. It can now include job sharing, off-site working, compressed hours or even annualised hours.
How agile working can benefit law firms
Agile working and the legal profession happen to be a natural fit – with core tasks such as research, planning, admin, drafting etc. requiring no specific physical location or time. Plus, the rise of cloud-based computing is enabling firms to save money (e.g. by requiring less office space) without cutting corners.
Furthermore, with a number of high-profile firms moving away from a billable hours-based system towards a value-based system of working, time and location are being edged out in favour of discovering new ways to maximise value. Savvy firms are recognising the need to adapt to clients’ changing demands – and Sir Nigel Knowles said back in 2010 that billable hours were becoming anachronistic.
Increasingly, firms will have to re-shape their relationship with clients, becoming trusted business advisors yet keeping a lid on costs. Fortunately, agile working policies not only help save firms money and allow employees to maximise their output, they can also help move them towards more value-based relationships with their clients, through real-time problem-solving.
A growing trend in agile working
A plethora of forward-thinking law firms have begun to adopt the preferences of flexible working solicitors. Clifford Chance, Schillings, Dentons, Herbert Smith Freehills and DAC Beachcroft amongst others have already implemented various forms of agile working schemes.
This trend is only likely to grow, as millennial lawyers begin to seek a better work-life balance. This has been borne out by Lewis Silkin creating Rockhopper – a low-cost legal advice service, staffed by lawyers who’ve opted for lower wages in return for a better balance.
Ultimately, as a growing cohort of legal firms begins to implement systems to cater to flexible working solicitors, and as a new generation of lawyers demand more agility, it will become ever-more important for firms to keep up if they don’t want to get left behind.
The importance of technology in agile working
However, agile working isn’t simply about flexibility. It not only incorporates location- and time-based flexibility, it also focuses on doing work differently, to provide better outcomes. Employees need to be able to access all the tools required to carry out their jobs, whether they are in the office, at home or in a coffee bar. Cloud-based software can provide a robust solution for businesses wishing to adopt agile working practices. Practice management systems and CRMs can be hosted in the cloud and made available to users, no matter where they are.
Furthermore, utilising tools such as digital dictation can streamline and speed up correspondence and other documentation for legal professionals on the move.