The year 2018 has certainly proved to be an interesting time for the UK legal profession. The increased presence and influence of the millennial culture, changes in the use of technology and not to mention the impending possible EU departure, have provided the legal market with an abundance of challenges this year. Without question, change is afoot in more ways than one.
During this challenging time, a key consideration and a recent observation expressed by many firms is that despite the change, in order to continue their success, firms need to ensure that they continue to be relevant to their current employees, whilst also appealing to new talent, to ensure they are able to attract, recruit and retain the best in the market.
So how do law firms attract and retain the best talent?
To determine this, it requires recognition firstly that there has arguably been a slight shift in the traditional demographic in the legal market.
2018 has seen an increase in the role of the millennials and whilst they currently account for 35% of the workforce, by 2020, it is anticipated they will form 50%.
There has been a continued recognition on the value that woman returning to work from career breaks can bring to firms, and support for assisting those returning to work following extended periods of absence, has gathered pace, evidenced with the introduction of schemes such as the Reignite Academy, a project launched by six city firms to ger career-break women back on the path to partnership.
Studies have shown that whilst there are multiple factors considered by these groups when looking at options in the market, two important and attractive features concern flexibility and the use of technology.
In what is a candidate driven market, arguably, if firms are able to offer attractive packages, this would assist in attracting, recruiting and retaining top talent in the field.
Embrace flexible working fully
As a result of growing up in an era deemed the technological revolution, millennials are not afraid of technology advances and are keen to embrace them to challenge traditional corporate cultures.
As such, millennials are rebelling to buck the trend and demand a better work-life balance and a different working pattern. If firms are to attract the millennial crowd, even at the trainee level, the potential for a future flexible working policy is of significant interest.
In remaining attractive to current employees and those returning from career breaks, it is clear that firms require to embrace flexible working or they will lose out to new competitors – their virtual counterparts.
Virtual law firms have gone from strength to strength in recent years and are continuing to make impressive senior hires across the city. For those seeking a comprehensive and extensive flexible and agile working policy, the virtual firms provide a good alternative whilst not compromising on work quality.
Whilst there is no denying that the last few years have seen a significant increase in the number of firms introducing flexible and agile working policies, these have ranged across the board in terms of the varying level of commitment.
Some firms offer firmwide flexibility for all fee earners and support staff, whilst others focus on more senior staff members and the frequency tends to vary across the board from one or two days per fortnight, to unlimited, although the latter is rare.
For firms to truly keep up with the market, they could arguably be doing more. If the ambition of the London market is to offer a platform to assist women returning to work, and ultimately to address the gender gap for the millennial crowd in the not so distant future, then a culture than fully embraces flexibility and agility in respect of working patterns is essential.
Those firms which offer these alternatives, will arguably attract the best talent.