Amid the pandemic and the rise in the great resignation, a sizeable lawyer share has opined to keep working remote. Law firms are finding solutions to keep things in check - as arguably, the most important asset and resources for law firms are the employees.
Employees have recognised the importance of employee-centric policies, and their expectations for flexibility to work remotely and generational differences are a few of the challenges faced by employers.
Some law firms have resorted to the gig economic model where they take specialised workers on a project basis under Project Managers' leadership. To top off, attrition has also led to an imbalance. Our article on the legal industry and the great resignation portrays the dichotomy of law firms during the present times, where money and employee acquisition/retention are not cohesive.
The freelancer ecosystem is also favoured, whereby hiring lawyers for specified tasks for a fraction of the money spent on an associate. Current trends of legal resources hinge on disruptive legal freelancers, gig workers and contractual crew.
Another important way to ensure that the next generation of aspiring lawyers are well prepared for the future, law schools must upskill them with technological and entrepreneurial skills.
The legal gig economy
The rise of the gig economy is due to the favourable conditions that part-time or project-specific services bring for the law firms.
Bob Dolinsky, Principal at Dolinsky Consulting, a legal industry consulting firm, shares his views on the feasibility of the legal gig economy. In his article Can the gig economy work in a law firm? - Thomson Reuters Institute, he summarises the following factors for the legal gig economy to work:
- Supply – Is there a sizeable number of legal professionals contributing to the gig economy. The data points to that about 22% of lawyers are likely to leave the firm If new ways of working are not adopted.
- Demand – Two areas where the gig economy has roots: sole practitioners or small firms and large firms that use contract attorney services. Both are useful in the gig economy to increase profit. Hiring Lawyers and legal professionals on demand is cost saving.
- Client acceptance – While clients form a bond with their attorneys, few firms adopted the gig model to provide lawyers to their clients on a work basis. DAHL Advokatfirma in Denmark has successfully incorporated a structure where project managers assemble lawyers and specialised freelancer teams.
- Other than that, few other infrastructural, cultural, ethical, and economic factors need attention as the system is still not in place.
However, despite all the challenges, the gig model is here to stay, and legal firms are comprehending to make it work for them.
Freelance lawyers ecosystem
Revenue growth is the primary objective of any business, and the legal industry hinges on increasing billable hours and making things work.
Attorneyatwork's article on Smart growth: Tapping into Freelance Lawyer Ecosystem states that "grow your firm, skip the associates" is the mantra. Hiring is good when there is a long-term association with the organisation. However, freelancers provide the flexibility to work on a project-by-project basis and cost a third of the price of the billable man-hour.
Our article on Legal Industry Talent points to the evidence of the industry trends going digital. The legal workforce will comprise a cross-functional, agile approach and contractually managed personnel, including gig workers and strategic partnerships.
If we analyse legal resources through the lens of a lawyer, legal talent has taken a giant leap from conventional positions to becoming freelancers and gig workers.
In the discussion, workforce upskilling and being ready for the market are pivotal. The future belongs to those who invest in themselves.
Law School is the first point of contact for any aspiring lawyer, and it is where the skills in trends could be incepted and utilised for future deployment. Keeping abreast with the latest legal market trends, technology, entrepreneurship, and processes is the way.