Bellwether Insights 2020: Has the crisis created permanent change to legal business operations?

Bellwether Insights 2020: Has the crisis created permanent change to legal business operations?

 

“There are decades where nothing happens, and weeks where decades happen.”

The second article in our research series (see the first, here: Bellwether Insights 2020: Could small firms be weathering the crisis?), where we are looking at trends highlighted by our industry-wide research study, Bellwether 2020: COVID-19 and the Legal Industry.

 

Like many companies, this year our focus has been redirected to the potential impact of the pandemic, choosing to conduct our study a month or two after the crisis first hit.

Due to the timing of our survey, our results benefitted from a view of the pandemic after the initial response had subsided. This means we are able to measure industry sentiment on the more long-term impacts of working remotely – and the longevity of the technologies that support.

 

Go team legal

 

The operational response to the crisis was strong, with very few firms needing to adopt drastic revenue-saving measures that are typical of recessions.

58% of firms chose to leverage the government furlough scheme, meaning that redundancies were kept low, with only a fifth of firms planning redundancies when the scheme comes to an end. 

 

Homeworking is also proving more of a success than previously predicted, as only 16% of firms said they felt they were working at under half capacity compared to previous productivity levels.

Prior to the crisis, technology uptake in the industry was certainly a barrier to homeworking for many. However, post-crisis there has been a widespread adoption of tools – and a 45% growth in firms using teleconferencing software.

 

Firms are making it work

 

Despite the circumstances, and more senior members feeling challenged by the use of new technology, firms are largely making it work. So, are the changes here to stay?

Our research showed that around half of respondents felt their firm would permanently change their HR policy. Slightly over half (54%) said their preference would be to work from home on a part-time basis post-crisis. Our study also highlighted that women and Under 45s felt more strongly about this than the decision-makers – though not significantly so. 

 

A stand-out statistic from the survey was that 71% of respondents said they felt the lack of the face-to-face contact with clients was a key issue caused by remote working during the pandemic.

This proves that, although the use of collaboration technologies is on the rise, the quality of contact from person to person can’t be replaced entirely by distant contact with clients.

In seems in legal, therefore, the traditional outweighs the new and online, when it comes to meaningful interactions with clients.

 

Also, covered in the Bellwether report:

  • The commercial implications of COVID-19: “Despite the crisis, we do need to ‘keep calm and carry on’. For now, and as a start, that may be enough.”
  • The human impact of COVID-19: “I want a good work-life balance. That’s more of a priority to me than having a senior position.”

 

Read the full report here and download a free copy.

 

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About the author:

Amy is an established writer and researcher, having contributed to publications, such as The Law Society, LPM, City A.M. and Financial IT. Her role at LexisNexis UK involved leading content and thought leadership, as well as writing research reports, including "The Bellwether Report 2020, Covid-19: The next chapter" and "Are medium-sized firms the change-makers in legal?"