Guest Blog: A Practitioners Response to the BigHand Resource Management Report

It is clear that Legal Resource Management (LRM) is a growing discipline across the legal industry, which is fantastic! As shown in the latest Annual LRM Report from BigHand, law firms globally understand the operational and strategic impact that effective internal resourcing can deliver.

The catalysts are now familiar and driving real change in how the legal sector manages its talented workforce. Without echoing the BigHand report, I am sharing a practitioner’s view of the themes they identify and how these challenges are influencing the delivery of Resource Management (RM) in a global firm in 2022 and beyond.

Hybrid Working

The pandemic has shown the future of work and it is hybrid; yet I would hesitate to call it a “conflict” - more a sector transition to new ways of working, establishing policies and principles that provide enough flexibility and enable healthy evolution of firm culture.

Where this has benefited RM is accelerated acceptance of remote working. Partners and associates are comfortable managing matters virtually, using technology to remain connected and informed. RM accordingly is facilitating the growth and development of truly global teams, leveraging capacity and capabilities of individuals across our regional networks. For most, supervising work of an associate in Manchester is now virtually the same as if they were in Munich or Miami. This behavioural shift is unlocking RM’s ability to build high performing teams for our clients. And it further supports our ability to manage high demand for our services without the need to deploy contingent resources either at increased cost to our clients or reduced profitability for the firm.

So, whilst inconsistencies in design and application of hybrid working policies for an organisation will continue to cause friction in the short term. Long term acceptance of remote working itself has only increased the potential pool of talent available to provide the best possible support to our clients; providing greater opportunities for our people. At Reed Smith we are regularly forging new connections that otherwise may have been unrealised for years.

Combatting the “War on talent”

It is no surprise that data shows an increase in lateral moves, although the extent (149% increase in associate moves) is significant. People are revaluating their careers against the demands of personal lives and changing career expectations following the pandemic. As with hybrid working, if firms get career support wrong, people will vote with their feet.

RM is supporting retention of talent at Reed Smith by embedding ourselves as trusted and empathetic managers, advocating for associates, and connecting them to meaningful work that meets career aspirations. This is a key tenet of the RM value proposition. By building strong relationships with teams RM can proactively identify opportunities that motivate and engage our associates. Access to skills mapping, supported by machine learning, provides awareness not only of current competencies but also associates’ development interests. Using this information alongside career support conversations, RM is facilitating a breadth of opportunities for our lawyers. Balanced against commercial needs, the focus is primarily on individuals and plays a key role in our retention strategy.

Prioritising DEI

It is entirely true that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) has become a priority for the legal sector; in response to external, client and internal pressures. RM has a crucial role to play in supporting activities that can deliver real change within a matter of months, whilst broader systemic challenges are tackled – such as attracting more diverse talent into the industry.

Ensuring diversity is a factor in how work is allocated across a team and having an RM empowered to make objective resourcing decisions that can mitigate unconscious biases are pivotal to delivering this change. These measures are enhanced by use of data to identify where inequities lie and to demonstrate how fairer allocation can deliver equal access to work and opportunities. Empowering our RM function to take responsibility for allocations and changing partner behaviours can quickly move the dial on these metrics. Providing a compelling example of action being taken now to address DEI challenges in the industry.

Client pressure is also helping accelerate what we are trying to achieve - particularly in the US market where clear diversity targets are set regarding the teams we provide. With the possibility of financial penalties if we fail to meet client requirements. This adds a further layer of empowerment for RM to challenge established client teams and to work with partners to ensure we meet these growing expectations - not just for our clients but for our people too. In this way, RM is supporting the firm’s Racial Equity Action Plan.

Safeguarding Profitability with Effective Resource Utilisation

Increasing salaries, higher rates of attrition, growing cost of lateral hires, increased use of alternative fee arrangements, and ensuring deployment of the right resource or technology are all factors sustaining our focus on the efficient running of teams to ensure profitability.

As the BigHand LRM report states, “43% of UK [firms] insist there is little resource allocation/matter staffing focused on matter profitability in their firm”. This I attribute to the predominantly reactive nature of staffing demand which affects our ability to consider the full range of options when staffing matters. This is pushing RM to attain greater visibility of resource demand, demonstrating that increased commercial value of resource management comes as a result of proactive collaboration with our fellow business services teams. For example, at Reed Smith we are focused on:

  • Gaining insight and awareness from Business Development and partners to track the pipeline of work and resources required to deliver them.
  • Initiating conversations with Pricing to ensure staffing assumptions made are deliverable.
  • Having time to consider and identify alternative resourcing options early to enhance profitability (for example, engaging our excellent Global Solutions team in Leeds).
  • And where matters are of material size, collaborating with Legal Project Management or Billing teams to monitor matter performance.

All are team and activities RM should have experience with, to ensure we move beyond reactive “place filling”, and further establish our reputation as commercial partners.

Empowering People with Resource Management Technology

Having started in Legal Resource Management with purely the use of excel(!), I can attest that technology is a considerable enabler in the efficacy of our function. It provides the ability to capture structured information on our people (predominantly their capacity, skills, interests and performance), which is then available to RM and others to inform resourcing decisions on a daily basis but also longer term.

Above all, however, simplicity is essential. Whichever tools a firm use, there is reliance upon associates to enter and maintain data which is used to make staffing recommendations for our clients. If a tool requires too many clicks or burdensome amounts of time, adoption suffers and data quality suffers - and, accordingly, the quality of RM support is affected. Simplicity is essential.

RMs role is also to raise awareness in the value of forecast data. Not just for the immediate benefit of identifying teams with required skills, interests and capacity. Forecast data is one of the few sources of forward looking data captured in our business. Accurately maintained forecasts can provide insight to aggregated demand and expected financial performance. This can only be achieved if adoption is encouraged and maintained. Accuracy of forecasting and visibility of demand is being developed to enable long term planning. Data remains one of the most important resources available, and leveraging its value is a top priority for RM at Reed Smith.


It is an exciting time to be in Legal RM. Still relatively new to the industry, we have a lot to achieve. It is in effect a substantial culture change program for any firm, but the benefits are clear and proven from 25+ years of existence across the accounting professional services. Culture and scale make its application fundamentally different in the legal sector, yet the themes identified by BigHand are not unique to the legal sector, I am sure. I look forward to sharing my views on that with you shortly.

To access the full Legal Resource Management report click here

About BigHand Resource Management

BigHand Resource Management is a legal work allocation tool that allows law firms to identify resources, forecast utilisation, manage workloads and add structure to career development for lawyers. The solution delivers real-time visibility of team availability, improved profitability on matters and supports DEI goals and equitable allocation of work.

BigHand Resource Management