Life after lockdowns: what does the future look like for your career in legal?

Life after lockdowns: what does the future look like for your career in legal?


When lockdown hit back in March, we weren’t surprised that firms and legal teams around the world were able to continue to deliver for their clients whilst working from home. The technology and talent have long been in place to make remote legal working a no-brainer, the C-19 pandemic has forcibly removed the mindset barrier that kept lawyers in their offices.

So what does this mean for lawyers looking at their career plans longer-term? You need to think now about how these three big ideas will impact on your working life.

#1 The office is dead. Long live the office.

Metropolitan office space is a significant expense. As lockdown eases, measures to re-open offices make these costs even higher as safety measures drive down occupancy in the short-term. For some people, time away from the office has highlighted the value of working collectively, along with the social upside and the mental health benefits of a clear separation between home and work. Others are filled with dread at the prospect of going back to the commute and the politics. 

For many, time away from the office has led us to re-evaluate our work/life balance. The good news is that there are more opportunities than ever to put legal skills to work outside a traditional firm environment. Whether that’s working on a consultant basis through a platform like Obelisk, working in-house or making the case for remote working on a permanent basis, the world of work is changing.  

Whilst we’ve seen remote working growing even before the pandemic hit, offices will still be with us. As spaces for collaboration, innovation and growth, they are valuable, plus most organisations have too much invested in them to make significant changes in the short-term.  This means that savvy lawyers will be thinking now about how to operate effectively across both spaces. For those who manage teams, this means learning new skills - leading remotely requires more effort and extra EQ.  Training new colleagues and junior members of staff requires greater thought and organisation as proximity is reduced. Those just starting out in their careers will need to pay new attention to how they establish their reputation online; using blogging and social media to reinforce their personal brand and finding the right mentors and sponsors to help them progress. 

#2 The robots are coming.

Whilst economic prospects around the world are still uncertain, in-house legal teams will be under pressure to reduce their budgets. They are also faced with delivering on an increased number of priorities, as organisations are exposed to new risks and regulations. In response, they need to find new efficiencies, and expect their firms to do the same. Firms are already reporting an increase in the number of clients who are expecting to see in detail how new technologies will be leveraged to reduce their bills. Automation can already significantly reduce the amount of human effort required in areas such as basic contract review. Its capabilities will only grow, taking us closer to a world where there could be a shortage of professional work to go round. 

To continue to thrive in this scenario, individual lawyers will need to identify the unique values, skills and services that they can offer and AI cannot. This could be telling the machines what to do, as opportunities in legal operations and legal design increase. Or this could mean developing expertise in a particularly niche area of practice or distinct customer group. Those at the start of their careers will need to plan for a richer but also more precarious existence, where ingenuity and ability to reinvent oneself will be more important than technical skills. 

#3 Flexible resourcing is here to stay 

The pandemic has pushed organisations into taking a closer look at their supply chains and the potential for disruption when “black swan” events hit. The legal industry has been through various cycles of outsourcing; offshoring, nearshoring, northshoring. Flexible resourcing helps smart legal leaders to tap into the underutilised talent pool in the UK that has previously been overlooked by the legal industry’s traditional fixation with the office-based, “9 to 7” working day.

For in-house legal teams in particular, flexible resourcing for legal work provides cost-effective access to highly-skilled professionals, reduces political, environmental and regulatory risk in the supply chain and increases participation in the legal labour market in the UK. For legal professionals, it provides opportunities to create a better work/life blend, freeing up more time for family, side-hustles or simply enjoying life. For those who have had a break from the law, the rise in this way of working may also be an opportunity to come back. To be successful working this way, legal professionals need to think not just about logistics (such as internet connectivity and dedicated work space) but also strategies to build their brand with potential clients and showcase their skills.

As recent changes to our ways of working become increasingly permanent, it’s vital to carve out some time now to plan and respond, no matter where you are in your career.


Don't forget to register for our upcoming “Time to thrive” webinar co-hosted with Obelisk Support.

Hybrid and remote working are likely here to stay, and there have been huge advances in the use of technology both professionally and personally over the last 12 months. How are these trends changing how we think about legal work? And what does this mean for your individual career?

Wednesday 27th January

12:00 – 12:45pm

Register now

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About the author:

Dana Denis-Smith is the CEO and founder of Obelisk Support, a legal services provider offering flexible legal solutions to FTSE100 and law firms with highly-skilled lawyers. Obelisk Support was listed as one of the fastest-growing businesses in Europe in 2018 by the Financial Times.

 A TedX speaker, Dana regularly speaks at industry events and in the media on gender equality, entrepreneurship and legal technology. In 2019, she was recognised by the Legal 500 for Outstanding Achievement in Legal Services and in 2018, she was voted Legal Personality of the Year at the LexisNexis Awards