The major City law firms are on notice that their big hitters want a permanent post-Covid change in work patterns or some will look to leave, new research has found.
According to Thomson Reuters, the lawyers it surveyed wanted to work remotely at least two days a week and see a 10% reduction in working hours, with a third were willing to reduce their compensation in exchange.
They also wanted more flexible working arrangements to get their work done across the day with less focus on when they started or finished.
One in seven (14%) said they would even consider going part-time as 65% said remote working has had a positive impact on their wellbeing.
For its State of the UK market 2021 report, Thomson Reuters surveyed 156 what it called “stand-out” private practice lawyers and 86% wanted to change the way they worked.
Almost a third suggested they would leave their firm within the next two years if this was not accommodated.
Concurrent research among more than 250 senior corporate counsel identified how building the long-term working relationship between client and law firm had become more important during the past year.
Thomson Reuters said these results created “a huge challenge” for law firm leaderships “as they try to balance their lawyers’ desire for greater flexibility and reduced hours with the need for more off-the-clock investment to better understand clients’ business goals”.
Many of the demands of in-house teams borne out by the poll were familiar ones, the research acknowledged – as well as deeper relationships, they wanted law firms to develop a greater level of understanding of their businesses, they were still dissatisfied with the billable hour and were keen on new business models.
But it went on: “While none of these issues are new, this report does show that after the upheaval of 2020, something is definitely different.
“The pandemic has significantly amplified and crystalised why these issues need to be addressed and, for the first time, the industry may be feeling a sense of the consequences of failing to react and adapt.
“Across all of the issues raised within this report, there are three key themes which, if the industry is going to emerge in a healthier position as it moves forward, it is going to have to address:
“A frank and honest reappraisal, on all sides, of where the value lies in relationships; a more purposeful and open approach to collaboration across borders and between legal service providers; and adoption of technology that can unlock and enable the flexibility and efficiency that everyone is craving.”