What do I mean by an agile working culture?
- The facility to work from home, either before or after the last client meeting to save the drive back to the office.
- A culture of ‘hot-desking’ – working from clients’ offices by pre-agreeing the use of a spare meeting room.
- Remote working from any desk at either the same or an alternative branch location, or even meeting spaces in hotels/cafes.
A recent survey of over 5,000 professionals cited the top three reasons why an agile working culture was a key factor in choosing the firm they wished to work for:
- Fewer distractions and more productive when not in the office environment (72%)
- Stress, loss of time and expense of commuting (70%)
- Power to control a flexible schedule (69%)
There is clearly a win-win for both senior management and fee earners if your law firm offers agile working.
Aside from the obvious recouping of expensive time, your law firm can also make significant savings in prime office rental costs if this flexibility is reviewed and planned ahead for.
Will fee earners work harder than working in the law firms practice locations?
I would say a resounding yes. Think of how you would be, knowing your manager has an ability to revoke this highly attractive privilege should they believe you’re abusing it or taking extra time out without permission. Besides, your fee earners should be producing the results to prove beyond doubt that your offer to provide this flexible lifestyle perk is working.
When staff are in the office and under scrutiny, they can appear intensely busy but the reality may be otherwise – and you have the lack of work product as exhibit A. Truth is, it’s not necessarily intended, they’re not ‘slacking off’ – it’s just the nature of the workplace. So much time can be stolen away through:
- impromptu meetings,
- polite conversations with staff,
- unjamming the printer
- myriad daily interruptions to their primary fee-earning role.
Attracting the greatest talent
Who doesn’t want to have the very best talent working for them? The top performers leaving law school over the last five years or so have been working in a very collaborative way with their law school colleagues. Thanks to social media they are far more likely to stay in touch with one another than earlier generations. They meet up, swap stories and learn who amongst their peer group have gained positions. The sort of law firms they’ve joined, and how their work/life balance operates. The very best talent will be wise enough (with their natural nose for evidence) to evaluate which firms offer the most supportive approaches.
If you are targeting your fee earners to achieve circa four billable hours per day or greater, top talent will not relish those daily distractions and interruptions; they’ll most likely want to exceed those figures whilst maintaining a mentally healthy lifestyle approach. Why put unnecessary barriers in their way?
The second part of this blog will provide guidance and tips on how to embed agile working in your firm. As well as various approaches law firms are using to help fee earners work collaboratively in a secure environment. We also hear from two lawyers that have made unexpected career choices because of the value of agile working. The talent battle has taken another interesting turn.
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