Lawyers demand remote work and even reduced hours
Two-thirds of UK lawyers say remote working has had a positive impact on their wellbeing – although fewer report that it has improved working practices.
A survey of corporate counsel and senior lawyers by legal information business Thomson Reuters also found that attitudes to remote working were much more positive in the UK than the rest of the world.
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In total, 86% of UK lawyers would like to change the way they work in future, compared to the global average of 77%, and on average they would prefer to work remotely at least two days a week.
Lawyers would also like a 10% average reduction in working hours, and more than a third (34%) are willing to reduce their compensation in exchange for a shorter working week.
Partners working remotely said they enjoyed greater efficiency, more productive use of technology, less commuting and stronger adoption of a better work-life balance. Almost one-third of senior lawyers suggested that they would leave their firm within the next two years if more flexibility could not be arranged.
In the report, nearly two-thirds (65%) of UK lawyers say remote working has had a positive impact on their well-being. A further 42% of UK firm partners believe remote working has improved working practices, compared to 34% of senior lawyers global. Only 8% of UK partners claim remote work has led to a deterioration in working practices versus 15% of senior lawyers globally. However, 80% of lawyers surveyed said that difficulty developing new business was one of the biggest drawbacks of remote working.
The research comes as the biggest UK law firms with large offices in city centres grapple with how to reintroduce workers back to the office, while embracing the remote working that staff may have enjoyed during the last year. Several firms have already said they will allow people to work remotely for a percentage of their week, with a handful even saying they don’t mind where and when lawyers work.
The State of the UK Legal Market 2021 report was based on interviews with 250 senior corporate counsel and 156 senior lawyers.
The survey also revealed that 74% of senior UK partners believe their firms should be investing more in technology.
Legal spending is likely to rise, with 38% of corporates planning to increase their legal spending compared to 21% who will cut it – but there is growing demand following the pandemic for costs to reflect the current situation.
In total, 28% of corporates said law firms would need to offer more competitive rates in order to improve satisfaction with the services they receive, compared to 18% who targeted pricing in this context when the same question was posed a year ago.