While rebalancing work to live and live to work will be ongoing, the legal services labour market will speak to those who listen and act.
In Legal Talent Rebalancing – Part 1 – Valuing Time, I discuss time versus compensation, cost to re-staff, and why throwing money at a problem never works long term.
In Legal Talent Rebalancing – Part 2 – Valuing People, I examine burnout, outsourcing, succession planning, and how rebalancing work production between internal and external experts is a future-proof market strategy.
While the “Great Resignation” has been more prolific in the U.S., Canada is not immune to changes in the labour market along with how we work or don’t work now, and will or won’t work in the future.
According to Canadian Occupational Safety magazine, findings from a Workplace Strategies for Mental Health report conducted by Canada Life indicated that 39 per cent of workers in the services sectors of finance, legal and insurance are reporting high levels of burnout. This percentage is higher than the national average.
Surprising? Hardly. Experience and conversations with people at all levels and disciplines within law firms, legal service providers and corporate legal departments tells me that the numbers within the legal services sector are much higher and growing.
This is why smart firms, providers and departments began outsourcing their internal services needs to external experts years ago. Doing so has freed up time, resources and money, which enables them to focus on their core business and do what they do best.
Looking ahead, volatile shifts within the full spectrum of legal market talent from lawyers to paraprofessionals, marketing to IT, and HR to administration can be expected this year and next.
With that in mind, outsourcing to experienced external experts in all of these fields who can provide proven legal industry knowledge, business acumen, strong expertise, vital energy, deeper creativity, better flexibility, cost efficiency, and fast scale-ability is a very attractive solution.
Even more beneficial is when outputs produced by external resources are flowed through to clients. It may be possible that such services can be handled “white label” style or be disaggregated and producer-accredited to enable full transparency.
“We’re all in this together” was a rallying call that resounded during the pandemic and its fallout. While we all faced the same foe, some people floated through these years on a yacht while others clung to a life raft and many drowned.
For law firms that experienced windfalls, it’s a good bet that a number of senior partners will cash out this year and next. This is why succession planning in the very near future – as in right now – and throughout the next decade is a must.
As boomer lawyers shift out – willingly or not – thinning ranks now at the mid-career level will need to work cohesively with colleagues at all levels and in a multidisciplinary manner to service demanding clients who will continue to have high expectations for action, speed and results. Keep in mind that those same clients are already well aware of this problem and will be proactive in getting work done elsewhere or by other means.
Daunting as it sounds and as exhausted as we are, this is when Winston Churchill’s famous advice to “Never let a good crisis go to waste” and “If you’re going through hell, keep going” needs to be taken to heart and more importantly, acted upon.
There is no going back to the way things were. Halcyon days are done.
In years to come, the times we are living in right now will be the best in legal market history to recast how we do business today and into our tomorrows. This will require difficult conversations, tough decisions and resolute actions to differentiate according to distinctive and attractive, one-of-one go-to-market features that involve flexibility around structures and people.
Like icebergs that constantly destabilize as ice melts, law firms that want to remain afloat will need to reorganize to future-proof client retention and legal market expectations. This will entail the continual reorientation of weight distribution to satisfy a firm’s own needs as well as those pertaining to client work and service. The advantage of doing so will enable flexibility and an ease of scalability between internal and external talent at all levels and disciplines.
Continual reorientation to address who does what, why, where, when, and how is the ultimate definition of a fluid and hybrid work model that puts people first.
After all, people are the strength or weakness of any type of market. When it comes to a rebalance between working to live and living to work, both the legal market and its labour market are speaking.
However, the value of these conversations will be realized only by those who actively listen and act on what they hear.
Heather Suttie is an internationally recognized legal market strategist and management consultant. She advises on market strategy, marketing management, business development, and client retention. For 25 years, her thought leadership has informed legal businesses, teams and individuals worldwide.
Heather consults to law firms and legal service providers — Global to Solo l BigLaw to NewLaw — helping them thrive in the evolving legal industry by claiming a distinctive one-of-one position and sustained competitive advantage resulting in greater market share, revenue and profits. Reach her at +1.416.964.9607 or heathersuttie.ca.