Last month I had the pleasure of joining a panel discussion as part of Sandpiper’s 14th Global Law Firm Leaders Conference. The event was a fantastic opportunity to bring together law firm leaders, including many Managing Partners, from around the world to discuss some of the biggest challenges and opportunities their firms are currently facing.
Amongst other things it won’t surprise you to hear that throughout the conference there was a heavy focus on people. There’s little doubt that the world has changed in the wake of the global pandemic, and we heard from several the conference’s contributors that the needs of their people and how firms are seeking to serve their employees (yes, employers serving employees) continues to adapt.
We heard talk of “the war on talent” and “the great resignation” as many panelists described a legal labor market like nothing they had ever seen before. Brought about by a significant volume of firm-to-firm movements - underpinned by elevated financial incentives, or lawyers seeking a different kind of career experience with rival firms. We also heard about the increasing importance of work/life balance to lawyers coming up through the ranks, and even the added pressure on the market caused by those leaving the profession to seek a career which better suits their life as well as work goals.
In the panel discussion I was lucky enough to take part in the topic of Talent, Human Capital, Diversity. Very much a theme of the conference overall but our session allowed us to dig deeper into the experiences of the firms represented. Including what they are seeking to do going forward in differentiating themselves from competitors and truly establishing their own corporate identity and culture. Coming in as panel number 4, prior to our discussion we heard a lot about recruitment and attracting talent as being a solution to filing the gaps. What I enjoyed about our panel was being able to turn focus more to retention and looking after those you already have in your firm.
Well-being and career experience, as well as fair and equitable treatment and access to opportunities were prevalent in the chat. The impact and facilitation of hybrid working models and the laser focus on improving in all corners of diversity, equity and inclusion, are clear priorities for law firms. My own contribution to the discussion was to share some of our experience in supporting law firms to design and embed a structured approach to resource management and work allocation. Very much underpinned by data but managed with objectivity and a very human approach.
Not blind allocation but a considered, consultative process to explore all factors in allocation decision making. Supporting the careers of lawyers and their access to the right work, striving for that level playing field in support of DEI strategies, all whilst making improvements in efficiency and profitability. The right people, doing the right work and minimizing the impact of a dispersed workforce.
I was delighted by how this was all received by the panel and how well it seemed to fit with the wider discussion. At BigHand we’ve seen some fantastic results from both our consulting work with clients and where we’ve introduced our resource management technology solution.
It was fantastic to be in attendance and I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to join a line-up of prominent leaders from the industry. Crucially we were also joined by leaders from the clients of law firms and their perspective and contributions were incredibly insightful. The focus on people and work to positions themselves as an employer, has never been a more important for law firms, however, this will always need to be managed alongside how you support and deliver for your clients.
I started this blog by talking about challenges and opportunities. Yes there are opportunities here and that’s always the best way to look at evolution. But my goodness, getting this right is certainly a challenge! The firms who do best will be those who consider all the elements to this and get strategy right. It can’t be purely reactive and I’m so proud of my team and role they play in supporting our clients to be their best firm.