We wanted to get a better understanding of the business priorities of legal decision-makers for 2022 and how companies use and value technology as well as which issues are shaping how organisations plan to move forward. For answers, Advanced commissioned research among 1,078 senior decision makers within UK businesses that have more than 100 employees. Of this total, 77 of our respondents worked in legal firms and were personally involved with the day-to-day charting of the organisation’s future.
The areas of focus covered are:
- Business growth and technology
- Security and compliance
- Employee wellbeing, development, and retention
- Environmental sustainability
Business growth and technology
Across all the firms surveyed, our research revealed that business growth and development is the top area of focus for the next 12 months. This is the priority cited by just under two thirds (65%) of our respondents, and just over half (51%) felt that increasing profit was a priority for the leadership of their firm.
In all this, what’s the link between business growth and technology? We found that less than a third (30%) of our respondents see technology as a top priority for their firm. This is possibly because tech isn’t really an objective, but rather a means to an end. And most of the time, the end goal of technology will be to support business growth. In recognition of this, our firms have said that among the important issues remote working highlighted for their firm in the past year, nearly half (44%) identified the need to improve the software they use, while only a quarter wanted fewer business apps.
Security and compliance
Cyber security is the main business priority for over a third of our respondents (36%). Law firms have access to a wealth of valuable information, which is why they’ve become a prime target for cybercriminals. In addition, a security breach or being the victim of cybercrime could cause
huge reputational and financial damage to a firm, severely prohibiting prospects of growth.
As to the difference remote working makes, among the vast majority (96%) of firms engaging in hybrid working, just under two thirds (60%) feel that they are now at a greater risk of cyberattack. One in five think they’re not at greater risk.
The reality is that the pandemic has greatly increased the use of internet-connected devices and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) - both necessary for remote working. This has increased the risks significantly and resulted in a growing number of cyberattacks. The UK Government noted that “the risk level is potentially higher than ever under COVID-19, and that businesses are finding it harder to administer cyber security measures during the pandemic”.
(Find out more about our BYOD services on our Modern Workplace page)
Employee wellbeing, development, and retention
Lawyers work long hours in a demanding job, leaving them at high risk of burnout. Many are becoming dissatisfied with the status quo, leaving law firms with issues around performance and the retention of key talent. Work satisfaction and productivity can be linked to several elements such as improved communication, flexible working, and higher productivity from having the tools to do more in less time.
When asked what the leadership of the firm is prioritising, the priority which saw the most substantial shift between 2020 and 2021 was retention and development, jumping from 29% to 43%. Recruitment also increased in priority by 3% compared to the last year. This highlights a growing awareness that retaining talent is likely to be a bigger issue going forward.
With lawyers working more than 14 hours a day to meet their billing targets, findings concluded that 69% of legal professionals experienced mental ill-health in the 12 months preceding the survey, but only half of them had talked about it at work. One in five had been bullied, harassed, or discriminated against.
Law firms are now under pressure to show they consider the environmental impact of their activities. Although not quite a high priority topic for them yet, it is on their radar, and most firms are very interested in the ways going green can help them reduce costs. Already, 62% of the firms we surveyed are using software to measure their environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance, and two thirds of respondents understand their organisation’s carbon footprint.
Of course, the move to lower carbon activity isn’t entirely altruistic. Another driver of change is that clients are feeling pressure themselves to act and will increasingly seek to work with firms that demonstrate the same values. Working with those who can evidence they are acting on emissions reduction, because this can help clients to meet their own carbon commitments.
An even more profound change has been that 44% of firms we spoke to had downsized their offices. Although, the prime reason for doing so was due to hybrid working, as they now need less space.
Law firms are now emerging into a post-pandemic landscape that’s somewhat different from the world before. Some things, of course, remain the same: firms are still operating in a highly competitive environment in which they still need to control costs, demonstrate value to clients, get paid on time, and hopefully continue to acquire new clients. But there are new pressures, including the need to manage frequent changes in government guidance and employment laws, cope with changes in court practice, and for some, maintain cash flow when court cases are stalled. Want to read the full report? Click the link: https://bit.ly/3Dg4U4a