Economic uncertainty “taking its toll” on lawyers

Remote working: Few lawyers want to be in the office the whole week

The state of the economy is “taking its toll” on lawyers, with 84% saying economic volatility and a “looming recession” are affecting their mental health, a report has found.

Eight out of 10 private practice and in-house counsel said they were concerned their teams would be “negatively affected” by a potential recession.

However, 91% of lawyers were satisfied with their current positions, with 23% completely satisfied and 49% very satisfied.

Researchers for alternative legal services provider Axiom Law polled 170 lawyers for 2023 New Life in the Law, its second annual report on career perspectives “from pandemic to recession”. A third of the lawyers worked in-house.

Almost all said the volume of matters they supported had increased, while 95% agreed that the complexity of legal matters and emerging legal risks had increased.

Researchers commented: “The burn-out risk is running high for lawyers. Legal workloads have been steadily increasing—and the matters are not getting any easier. UK lawyers in both firms and in-house positions are struggling to do more with less.”

Axiom noted a “marked increase” this year in the proportion of lawyers saying the “culture of the legal services sector” had been slow to embrace data, technology and new delivery models.

From 64% last year, it rose to 76% of private practice lawyers and 93% of those working in-house.

Researchers said: “Perhaps they recognise that the slow movement toward a digital future contributes to the burn-out, particularly in an age of bigger, more complex workloads.”

Large majorities of lawyers – especially though in-house – agreed that there was a “disconnect” between what law firms provided and what clients expected in terms of service and delivery.

Researchers said escalating law firm billing rates did not help and “aggressively increasing rates” were “not only out of step with economic forecasts, but they’re also totally disconnected from client pain points, so much so that law firms themselves have become an additional source of pain instead of a solution to it”.

At the same time, 93% said they felt as if they were working “as part of my client’s team” and 96% saying they felt “very close to my client’s businesses and how they work”; nonetheless, 81% wanted an even “closer relationship” with clients.

Lawyers expressed a definite preference for hybrid or remote working. Most (58%) were currently working on a hybrid basis, with 13% on a 100% remote basis and 29% in the office full-time.

However, 61% of lawyers wanted to work in a hybrid way, 22% fully remotely and only 18% fully in the office.

Lawyers were most likely to rank employee benefits, such as training and holidays, as “important or very important”, followed by the ability to work flexibly in terms of hours worked and location.

Virtually all of the lawyers said they would be interested in working for a new law provider (like Axiom), a big increase in the seven out of 10 who said so last year.

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