Get through 2021 – tips for legal professionals
One thing we can all agree on is that we’ve never been more relieved to see the end of a year. Now that 2020 is well and truly behind us, we look towards (hopefully) brighter, better things in 2021. There’ll likely be trials and challenges this year too, and with those in mind, our first blog of the year looks at how to get through 2021, with tips for legal professionals.
Master the art of homeworking
If you haven’t already become a home office supremo, then it’s probably a good time to establish some routines and create the right working atmosphere for yourself. What is clear as we start 2021 is that legal staff working from home isn’t going to be ending anytime soon. And that’s a good thing for many UK lawyers as you can experience a far better work-life balance without the commute to, or the long hours spent at, the office. Many firms are looking at making working from home a more permanent feature for staff, with plans in place for staggered days in the office once the pandemic subsides.
One of the biggest concerns over homeworking, and something a few of our consultants have come across when speaking with unhappy legal professionals, is the lack of contact and feeling of isolation. Firms must play their part if remote working is set to become a legal industry standard. A proactive approach is needed to ensure team members do not experience low morale too often. After all, too much of it and staff are not holding back when it comes to finding another firm to work for, one which does home working inclusivity correctly.
So, what can be done? If you are a more senior member of the team and you find yourself having a bit of extra time compared to when you were in the office, then set up regular one-on-ones with junior team members. If these are in the diary and stuck to, they can make a big difference to anyone feeling left out on a limb. Creating weekly or monthly ‘online socials’ can be a fun way to help boost staff morale too. Doing something light-hearted to strengthen the team bond can make up for the inability to have coffee together, or ‘do lunch’ as you might have done at the office. And finally, be there for one another by asking regularly ‘how you are feeling?’. When away from the office, despite being alone, it can be easier to feel more relaxed and open up to colleagues.
Be prepared for change
Something else we learned in 2020 is that everything can change with the click of a finger. Take civil and criminal litigation for example, where trials came to a complete standstill with the first lockdown. Likewise, the sudden drop in work for Immigration lawyers as the restrictions imposed on travel came into force. And on the flip side, last year we saw Conveyancing go through the ceiling thanks mainly to the Stamp Duty relief measures. Lawyers need to be ready and prepared for work to change in an instant. And this year, we have Brexit to bring into the equation, which will bring new cause for legal assistance.
Our consultant Daniyal Aziz gave a great overview of those practice areas which have been the busiest throughout 2020 on our blog back in November, which you can read here. But what can lawyers do when faced with either an unprecedented uplift in, or complete stagnation of, work? Firstly, we recommend you stay confident and support your firm as best you can as changes might need to be made to ride through the difficult period. If you feel your firm isn’t managing the issues as well as they could, then there may well be other career options you can explore, depending on your level of experience. During the course of the pandemic, we have seen many Partners keen to understand the market, and who is hiring, because they’d rather be one step ahead in this uncertain period. Contacting a legal recruitment agency and keeping your options open is definitely worth doing right now.
Time to collaborate
Depending where you are and how you feel about your legal career, this year will probably require some level of flexibility. As we mentioned before, there will be peaks and troughs with workload, and some practice areas will be busier than others. It’s a difficult one for firms to manage when one month there might be more work than the team can handle, yet a few months down the line it all evaporates. If such a pattern is emerging within your firm, there might be opportunity for skilled staff to be reassigned to other departments temporarily to help with the workload and prevent redundancy. If you have experience with other practice areas, being flexible and offering your services could reap rewards for all concerned.
As we said earlier, it is difficult to manage the many changes across the profession right now but adapting to them is important if firms want to retain staff, and clients. One way in which firms can make a difference is to bring effective communication to the top of the agenda. How do staff really feel when working from home? Sending out employee surveys and encouraging staff feedback can bring to light any true thoughts and feelings. And once collated, firms who try to implement changes or new strategies based on any feedback, show a willingness to do their best for their people.
Thanks to surveys which have been done in 2020, we know the difficulties junior lawyers face without having the face-to-face mentoring contact they need to succeed early on in their legal career. But it can also be a tough period for senior staff; some department and team managers might find remote management more difficult to get to grips with. Can firms offer extra training in management styles, a course of action which can offer good return on investment, as better management filters through the department?
We must remember that collaboration doesn’t have to look like a Zoom call every Tuesday at 11am. Law firms need to connect their teams in the same way they would have done back at the office. Online morning or evening fitness classes, or crafting lunches, can be a good way to get staff together across the whole firm. These collaborative activities do more than just let your teams join in something with their colleagues; they are good for physical and mental health too. And in 2021, we need to be as focused on our overall personal health as much as our careers and the work we do.
Whether you are unhappy in your current position at a law firm, or you are keen to find out what options there are at other law firms or working as a legal consultant across the country, contact the team at Interlink Recruitment to discuss your circumstances.
Or, if you are looking for something entirely new having studied law or worked a year or so at a law firm, why not join us as a legal recruitment consultant? We are hiring and welcome applications from those with previous understanding and knowledge of the legal industry. Send your CV to Daniel Rosenthal to apply.