As we embark on recording the next series of the Lawyer’s Coach podcast, we wanted to make sure that we were asking our guests the questions that you want answers to. So, we reached out to a range of legal leaders to find out how confident they are about the future and to try and uncover what some of their key challenges are. Here we set out an overview of our findings.
Legal Sector is optimistic about outperforming the economy
Whilst the majority of respondents were not confident about the growth of the British economy over the coming 12 months, 83% were confident about the growth of their firm. What was even more interesting was that many thought they would grow but the legal sector as a whole would not. This demonstrates a belief by some that they will also outperform the sector. Time will tell if these predictions hold good, but growth means a focus on fees and hours, and both of these were themes that came to the fore when we started to ask firms about what was on their mind.
Key challenges facing legal
71% of our respondents believed both lawyer recruitment and remuneration were a challenge for their firm; with a further 58% also believing retention to be an issue. Interestingly, fewer identified either firm morale (50%) or culture (38%) as a challenge; with only 38% acknowledging implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion to be an issue.
These results are very much in line with what we are hearing anecdotally, and with many reports that have been popping up in the Legal Press. Whilst exit interviews often point to culture as a reason for leaving, money still seems to be the way that most law firms respond to recruitment and retention challenges. This has a knock-on effect on the expectations of hours to be worked. The annual working hours report published by Legal Geek shows a number of firms having average 12-hour days, with the lower end of the scale still coming in at over 8 and a half hours. The 24/7 culture is very much still present.
Interestingly, whilst under half of the respondents felt that growing lawyers' legal skills was a problem, 58% identified the development of soft skills as needing attention. These soft skills, we like to call them human skills, are the very things that build a positive culture and boost morale. These can also help with the key challenges that firms are facing (recruitment and retention).
Thinking about cohesion
When asked to think about some of the internal challenges facing firms, respondents thought that achieving work-life balance is an issue. This of course makes sense in the context of the responses above! Some respondents went further and suggested that initiatives that were pulling professionals away from fee earning were a challenge for their firm. This is perhaps an unpopular view, but it appears to be shared by several respondents and is perhaps something that firms should be trying to bring to the surface, certainly by those firms who want their professionals to be doing more than just billing time.
Some thought that trying to maintain cohesion when people are still working remotely was problematic, which very much aligns with what leaders are telling us. We are hearing over and over that end-of-year events are often the first opportunity that firms have had to get everyone in the same place. You can read more about our views on that here.
Finally, in line with the quantitative results, and perhaps affected by the lack of work-life balance, morale was described as a key challenge by some.
Coaching – the solution lawyers need?
There are numerous studies that attest to the power of coaching. Almost all of our respondents identified coaching as a useful tool. It was heartening to see that 63% were commissioning coaching for their colleagues in the next 12 months, with 38% of those planning on commissioning more coaching than in previous years. This thumbs-up for coaching is a sign that firms are investing in their people and their teams. It would be interesting to see at what level coaching interventions take place and how well firms monitor the impact of these programmes.