Why small law firms need to embrace remote working

Why small law firms need to embrace remote working

The LexisNexis Bellwether 2022 report shows that lawyers at small firms are still largely working from the office. We look at the findings and explain why small law firms need to embrace remote working

The LexisNexis Bellwether 2022 report, which surveyed more than 300 small law firms, found that almost half of respondents (43%) were expected to work five days in the office. Only 6% of lawyers had the option to practice complete remote working. Compare the findings of the report with general remote working statistics across the wider economy and a problem starts to emerge.

According to Owl Labs, for example, 16% of companies are now fully remote. The healthcare industry (15%), the tech sector (10%), and even financial services industry have far more remote workers. Other sectors have embraced the shift towards remote working, with many sectors opting for hybrid working, but the legal sector seems to be falling behind.

The LexisNexis Bellwether 2022 report showcases some of the problems created by the reluctance to embrace remote work. this article, we utilise various findings from the report to explain that office work seldom generates business, proves more costly than remote working, and scares away talent.

Offices seldom generate clients

Small law firms often believe the walk-in a vital source of revenue, giving potential clients a tangible space to actively seek services. But findings from the Bellwether 2022 2022 report contradict that belief, showing that walk-ins are the second lowest source of generating business.

The most effective method of generating leads is referrals, with half of respondents claiming that was their number one source of lead generation. Another popular method was upselling and cross-selling opportunities. And, interestingly, online search and social media is increasingly contributing to leads.

The above lead-generating means can be performed remotely. And, considering downsides of office work discussed below, the lead generation from walk-ins fails to make an argument for office work.

Offices prove costly

The Bellwether Bellwether 2022 Bellwether 2022 report found that only 6% of respondents said they’ve lost business due to working from home. The majority of respondents said that business stayed the same. If you consider that 16% listed property as the most significant overhead, offices likely cost more than they make.

Offices are costly and their benefits are debatable. The oft-cited argument that employees are more productive in the office has been broadly debunked since the pandemic. Consider, for example, the CoSo Cloud Survey that found 77% of remote workers felt more productive, or the FlexJobs report that found 75% of employees find fewer distractions when working from home.

Or consider the comprehensive study by Great Place to Work, which used data from more than 800,000 employees at Fortune 500 companies. The results showed not only greater productivity from remote workers, but improved wellbeing, reduced personal costs, and greater job satisfaction.

Office work scares talent

One of the most startling statistics about remote working comes from Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2021 report. The report claims that 94% of people who worked remotely during the pandemic said they would like to continue remote work, at least part time. Only 6% seek full-time office work.

That’s a huge pull when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. Indeed, according to International Workplace Group research, 64% of recruiters say that a work-from-home policy helps them find high-quality talent. In addition, according to Owl Labs, 74% of workers say that having a remote work opportunity would make them less likely to leave a company.

Simply put, remote working improves the chance of attracting and retaining top talent[IMJ2] . And small firms are facing a massive challenge in recruiting, as shown in the Bellwether 2022 2022 report. Half of respondents said that they were only ‘somewhat confident’ about competing for legal talent over the next two years and 18% of respondents doubt their ability to compete.

And the competition is fierce. Small firms are facing, among others, the tech savvy Big Four, the forward-thinking platform firms, and agile alternative legal service providers. The competitors will likely offer some form of remote working and small firms will need to follow suit.

Employees want remote working because it improves work-life balance, which has become a major concern for lawyers. According to the LexisNexis Bellwether 2022 Bellwether 2022, for example, 45% of respondents ranked work-life balance highest in terms of job attraction. To put the point simply, if firms wish to attract and retain the best legal talent, they cannot afford to neglect remote working.

In conclusion

The Bellwether 2022 report paints a clear picture. Small firms need not embrace total remote working, but they should be open to remote working as an option and stop forcing lawyers to work in the office five days per week.

Hybrid working is likely the future, offering the best of both worlds. That means firms still need an office – albeit a smaller one, with hotdesking options and reduced overheads – but they can rely on collaboration and communication tools to ensure effective and cohesive teamwork.

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About the author:
Laura is a Legal Account Manager based in Leeds that helps small law firms to benefit from LexisNexis products. She loves to learn and has an inquisitive nature. Prior to joining LexisNexis, she worked in the betting and gaming industry.