One Way COVID-19 May Affect the Legal Industry

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The world is changing. The coronavirus is impacting all industries in unexpected ways and law firms are no exception.

Grounded in a long history, the legal industry still embraces what many consider “traditional” workplace practices and institutions. While efforts have been made to relax or modernize some of these practices (after all, England now only requires lawyers wear white wigs during criminal trials), many law firms are very much rooted in the way things have traditionally been done.

For example, many firms put a strong emphasis on fact-to-face time. Spending time in the office with partners and clients is an important part of their workplace culture. However, COVID-19 has ushered in a new social norm wherein companies need to put their employees’ health above the desire for face-to-face communication. The pandemic has forced many firms to allow any employee who can work from home to do so.

Experts predict that these changing attitudes towards remote work will not be a temporary transition for the legal industry, but a permanent one. Mark A. Cohen, CEO of Legal Mosaic, explained his prediction in a Forbes article, saying, “the coronavirus will turbocharge legal industry transformation. It will propel law into the digital age and reshape its landscape. The entire legal ecosystem will be affected—consumers, providers, the Academy, and the judicial system.”

While a shift towards work-from-home and flexible arrangements might be a big change for many legal firms, those that embrace this trend will be able to capitalize on many benefits. Below are just some of the ways legal firms stand to benefit from these changes.

1. Higher Employee Engagement

In an industry that has long been associated with long hours and high stress, work arrangements that allow employees to keep a healthier work-life balance can go a long way in improving engagement. Research has linked employee engagement to lower absenteeism and fewer errors. It is also liked with 17% higher productivity among employees and 21% higher profitability for the firm.

2. Lower Turnover

Higher employee engagement leads to lower employee turnover. According to Gallup, organizations in the top quartile of engagement have 24% lower turnover compared to those in the bottom quartile. When looking at organizations in industries with low turnover, the numbers are even more impressive, showing a 59% reduction in turnover between those in the top and bottom quartile.

Benefits that improve retention might be a smart investment for many organizations, as it’s estimated that turnover will cost U.S. organizations nearly $680 billion in 2020.

3. Better Applicants

Millennials and Gen Zers already make up the majority of the workforce. Research shows that these generations put a high value on flexibility and work-life balance. Law firms that work to provide some flexibility for their employees stand a better chance of attracting top applicants.

However, it’s important to note that it’s not just the younger generations looking for work-life balance. Workers from all generations will be attracted to a workplace that lets them pursue a career without needing to give up hobbies or family time.

While face-to-face time to connect with clients and partners is likely never going to completely disappear, ushering in new tools and technologies that allow employees to work from home when convenient will help modernize many legal firms and departments. The organizations that embrace this change might enjoy a workforce with higher engagement, lower turnover, and better quality applicants.