Rethink Benefits for Lawyers
A lot has changed for those working in law firms across the country, most notably the ability to work flexibly, and from home. You only have to go back a little over a year to when this was unheard of by way of an industry standard. In fact, it was a big benefit at some law firms. But with the shift to agile working becoming the norm, have firms had to rethink benefits for lawyers? Or are they pretty much the same as they always were? I take a closer look…
Around April last year, the big firms started to announce freezes on lawyer salary increases, as well as partner distributions. In some cases, there were cuts to NQ salaries, too. These cautious steps were taken to avoid redundancies and job losses as the country, and many countries in the world, shut down. However, as we got to the end of the year last year, most of these freezes and cuts had been either reversed or increased. Such was the success of the legal sector, and its ability to embrace technology and enable remote working to keep work flowing.
And what we have seen happen, amongst international law firms particularly, is the giving of a one-off bonus for all staff. Quite a few firms have made this decision as an overall reward for everyone employed with the firm to thank them for their dedication and hard work during the difficult time of the pandemic. Yes, the Covid bonus – it’s been a new offering in a year that’s been nowhere near what we know as normal.
Working from home
It seems mad to think this is one of the most sought after benefits for legal professionals just over a year ago. It’s crazy how quickly the industry has changed to adapt to making this now pretty much the norm. When the pandemic hit, a more flexible working structure was imperative to keep the wheels of legal services turning. Any firms who think they can backtrack now, and make working from home a value added benefit, will struggle.
There are plenty of firms who have set a form of hybrid, agile, flexible working as a precedent, allowing staff to divide their time between home and the office. It’s been a real door opener for many in the legal profession whose lives have been made easier without having to be in the office 24/7. Those with children have definitely benefitted, but we know of the wider issue amongst those fledgling lawyers who depend upon face-to-face mentoring for their career learning.
Multi-million pound office environments
Swanky offices with the very best of facilities for staff is another big benefit, especially in the city. And when we say facilities, we mean in-house gyms, bars, chill out zones, and more. What will happen to these offices? Will they become a thing of the past? Will they lose their appeal as lawyers flit between their home office and city office locations?
I don’t think they will. I think the city office will take on a new identity and will still offer itself as an important perk for anyone looking to join a firm with a great working base. There’s scope to be creative to deliver more space for collaboration, for training and learning, even getting colleagues together to socialise. The office will always be the hub for staff to come together, and just maybe, it will come to be even more appreciated as legal staff aren’t spending twelve hours a day, five days a week working there.
There’s a change taking place in the city when it comes to salaries. Firms are making a shift away from the more traditional approach of pay equating to length of service, instead of individual performance. There’s a lot to be said for some of the old-style methods which have been engrained into the DNA of law firms. We’re seeing first-hand the number of senior lawyers and Partners who are willing to leave the ‘collegiate culture’ behind entirely and go down the consultancy route, where they can be in control of their own clients, and earnings.
The old pay structures are just that: old, and now US firms are leading the way with incentive structures which will transform how firms pay their staff. Should you be paid more just because you’ve been there the longest? Or should you be paid more because you’ve achieved more, contributing to the success of the firm? I’m pretty sure you’ll agree with me that it ought to be the latter. And Partners with the highest billings will be happy to hear that, if they haven’t already been contacted by another firm offering them more money based on performance or sacked it off all together to be a consultant lawyer.
Jacob is an experienced legal recruiter, with over 6 years’ experience working with all manner of law firms, from Magic Circle to international, boutique to US firms. Today he helps City lawyers from NQ to Partner level, with their legal careers. Contact him for help with your next legal move – email@example.com