The world of trade & commerce is navigating some very unchartered and seemingly treacherous waters. We are all trying to manage our businesses and practices as dynamically and effectively as we can without compromising client service expectations. Fortunately, our law firm clients are not yet reporting (or anticipating) reductions in their workflow and aren’t forecasting for their work streams to dry up. In fact, in many of the legal sectors in which we recruit it has been quite the contrast and the impact for our clients has been in some ways bittersweet. Employment, Litigation, Sport, Real Estate and Private Wealth have seen a significant uptick in work in recent weeks. It seems that legal services are up there with toilet paper and hand sanitiser when it comes to distress purchases and panic buying.
Yet many of our candidates, male and female, senior and junior, are sharing their struggles managing increased workloads, placating very distressed (and subsequently demanding) clients whilst working from home without access to the often sophisticated resources and hi-tech infrastructure they would usually have in the office.
Mimoza Fleur has always been an advocate of working from home. Indeed, it’s a model we have adopted since day one. However, when these arrangements are imposed with little or no notice and barely any proper co-ordination on an indefinite basis, working from home isn’t quite the panacea we believed it to be. An effective working from home arrangement requires proper logistical and technological planning. At a time when, seemingly, the entire nation is trying to do the same thing, logistically and technologically, this is not easy. Similarly, the ability to easily delegate work to PAs, EAs, paralegals, trainees, and other junior team members is fast becoming a luxury which is harder to access. All of this is delaying what is usually a very slick and expeditious supply of legal services and advice to corporate, state and private individual clients. These delays and service disruptors are exacerbating the pressure on lawyers to perform well. Even with days starting much earlier (to get ahead, or get on before children rise, for example) and ending much later (once the children have gone to bed or the clients have stopped calling) it doesn’t appear to be helping all that much and, at a time when self-care is fast becoming one of our highest priorities, these long days are not ideal.
These stresses and strains are being exacerbated by the fact that unless lawyers have very elaborate wrap around child care / dependent care systems in place, they are struggling to manage the demands of working from home, often with children and/or dependents around and/or working from home whilst caring for children or elderly relatives that are unwell and/or have been placed in self isolation. A partner candidate told us this morning: “my daughter had a fever for most of the day yesterday and a persistent cough. In the middle of the night we took her to an out of hours GP service. Whilst they don’t think she’s contracted Covid-19, they have had to advise us all, as a family, to self-isolate for 7 days, at least. This means I can’t go to work. Nor can my husband. I can’t get into the office. I can’t take my son to school either. It’s a terribly stressful situation and I wish I could just ask my bosses to ask our clients to hold off, even for just a few days.”
The wellbeing worries that can arise in times like these are profound and obvious. If those at the helm are able to help manage firm clients are little tighter; promise the production of work a little later, without compromising the client’s best interests, it would help everyone all round to manage and endure these very testing and trying professional and personal times. Kudos to those firms that are sending email circulars to ensure their clients and stake holders that they are ‘on it’ but perhaps not as quickly as they would usually be.
The legal world is one which promises and manages clients to expect very high service standards because such services are purchased at a premium and often at a time of stress and worry. Institutionally, lawyers are trained to deliver quickly and excellently, always. Typically, lawyers are high achievers, perfectionists and ‘fixers’. Now, however, is the time for the legal industry and the senior members within it, to be proactive in encouraging an attitude from the top that better manages clients to allow their lawyers some grace and that encourages their lawyers to be a little kinder to themselves and each other.
5th April 2023
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