For a number of years now we have noticed that lawyers – particularly those at the more junior end of the profession – place increasing importance on so called work/life balance when seeking a new role. As a result, law firms struggling to recruit into transactional disciplines in Manchester have resorted to including elements of ‘flexible working’ as part of their benefits packages for would be recruits.
In this blog we will not be focusing on the drivers behind the change in attitude towards work in the millennial generation. This has been well documented and is a broad and complex phenomenon, certainly not exclusive to the legal profession. Neither will we focus on attraction techniques for law firms seeking the best talent in this new paradigm. Again this has been extensively written about and law firms have responded as a result. Rather this blog will focus on the implications of this changing environment for candidates as they interact with employer law firms and (most importantly from an employer’s point of view) law firm clients moving forward.
So what do candidates and law firms mean when they talk about opportunities to work flexibly? Very often what they are referring to is so called “location independent working” which follows from the principle that work is an activity and not a place. Most candidates looking for flexibility, want to be able to work from home or another location away from the office in order to better fit work time in around daily activities. In a candidate short market law firm employers have been quick to embrace this, providing candidates with the tools required to work remotely and often at a time of their choosing.
This in turn has and will result in less office space being required and more opportunities to hot desk. Addleshaws have recently announced they are moving to One St Peter’s Square, confirming they will be taking office space that reflects the flexible working practices now on offer.
There are however important implications that need to be worked through as a result of this change in working practices. The most of overriding of which is their impact on clients. Work place (and time) flexibility means clients understand and expect lawyers to be available to address issues outside of core business hours – indeed often one of the quid pro quo’s of being able to work remotely is to be available to work at most times across the day (and evening!). Clients often expect this at no extra cost.
Firms and lawyers therefore need to think about clients’ needs and expectations in a much more innovative way – particularly when seeking to resource large projects in an efficient way to manage costs. This has led to an increasing focus on a broader working strategy often described as “Agile Working”.
The Agile Organisation, a niche consultancy focused on this area defines agile working as follows:
“Agile working is about bringing people, processes, connectivity and technology, time and place together to find the most appropriate and effective way of working to carry out a particular task. It is working within guidelines (of the task) but without boundaries (of how you achieve it)”
So agile working is about ensuring that flexible working actually delivers results for clients and does so in an innovative and cost effective way. The natural conclusion of such thinking is to focus on efficient performance and outcomes for clients by engaging all stakeholders in the process.
We believe it is as important for candidates to be aware of this as law firms. The opportunity to work flexibly is increasing important to lawyers. However, the long term viability of this depends almost entirely on its suitability both in terms of cost and service for the people that matter the most – the clients that pay the bills!
If as a candidate you can recognise this and work with potential employers to adopt innovative and efficient working practices which adapt to client requirements you will be well placed to succeed in a perpetually evolving environment.
For a confidential market discussion please contact Paul Warburton at Think Legal Recruitment – firstname.lastname@example.org