How Can Traditional Law Firms Stop a Talent Exodus?

How Can Traditional Law Firms Stop a Talent Exodus?

The legal landscape has firmly bounced back from pandemic-era restrictions, yet many remain uncertain how far traditional firms should return to their pre-pandemic practices.

Alex Dick, Managing Director at Alexander Lyons Solutions, suggests below that greater flexibility among firms will create a more attractive environment for top talent to work at their best.

2022 has officially bitten the dust, and there will be plenty working in the legal sector who will consider this to be a cause for celebration. After all, the last few years have been undeniably tough for the industry, particularly when it comes to hiring. While the pandemic caused the demand for legal services to soar, a mass exodus of talent from the sector resulted in widespread shortages of permanent staff, placing incredible pressure on workloads.

Although the situation with COVID-19 is now considerably healthier than it was a year or two ago, traditional law firms continue to face an existential crisis. Many lawyers are deciding to move away from the traditional firms they were working for and towards those operating a legal consultancy model. This is corroborated by research by Arden Partners, showing that the number of consultant lawyers in the UK is rising at a compound annual growth rate [CAGR] of 21%, while mid-market law firms are growing by only 7%.

As such, it is evident that traditional firms are losing out to their consultancy counterparts in the race to recruit.

WFH Has Been a Hit With Workers

So, what are legal consultancies offering that traditional firms are not?

Well, since the vast majority of lawyers were forced to swap their usual desk for their dining room table or breakfast bar during the pandemic, working from home has become commonplace within the legal sector, rather than a perk reserved only for the most senior partnership positions.

Despite being bombarded with case work, many lawyers enjoyed the greater work/life balance that working from home afforded them, no longer wasting precious time sitting in traffic while travelling to and from the office, nor having to spend money on the petrol. Whenever they clocked off for the day, workers were already home, ready to make a start on the cooking, cleaning, getting the kids ready for bed, or simply unwinding.

It is evident that traditional firms are losing out to their consultancy counterparts in the race to recruit.

While many traditional firms have reverted back to their pre-pandemic work schedule – namely, to work from the office five days a week – a large number of lawyers are eager to return to a hybrid working routine, sharing their time between the office and home. Given that 96% of consultancies offer some form of agile working according to the MHA, it is no surprise that lawyers are leaving backwards traditional firms for consultancies that better understand the benefits of a happier and healthier workforce.

Traditional Firms Are Hurting Themselves

In this sense, many traditional firms are unwittingly committing self-sabotage by failing to address the preferences of their workers. After all, the shift to WFH that the pandemic imposed coincided with many firms reporting their best periods for billing ever.

Coincidence? Not likely. A recent study by the University of Warwick found that workers who feel satisfied in their roles are, on average, 12% more productive than those who are not. With remote working during the pandemic having proved such a massive hit among legal professionals, offering hybrid working options seems like something of a no-brainer for traditional firms. Unfortunately, this notion is often distorted by the misguided view among seasoned senior partners who think that work carried out at home does not hold the same value as that which is completed in an office setting.

Despite much evidence having dispelled the myth that remote working leads to diminished productivity, many persist in this antiquated belief. Whether they want to acknowledge it or not, times have changed – in my mind, for the better, given how much happier and productive workers have become since adopting a WFH routine. If traditional firms continue to keep their fingers in their ears, they just might find themselves facing extinction before long.

Firms Must Act Now to Guarantee Their Future

If they mean to go on existing, traditional law firms must now wake up and smell the coffee. Home working has proven to be a huge success, not only for legal professionals who are happier for their newfound flexibility, but also employers, who benefit from more productive workers. Essentially, it is a win-win, and the sooner senior partners ditch their outdated perceptions of remote working, the better for all concerned. After all, how much longer can they ignore the changing landscape around them?

While the clock is ticking for traditional firms in the sector, they still have time to change their attitude to remote working and, in doing so, give employees the flexibility to decide how, when, and where they want to work.

By taking this action, they can finally begin to turn the tide on the mass migration to legal consultancy, thereby proving to existing and prospective employees exactly how forward-thinking and agile they can be.


Alex Dick, Managing Director

Alexander Lyons Solutions

Liberty House, 222 Regent Street, London, W1B 5TR, UK

Tel: +44 02035 514862


Alex DIck is Managing Director at Alexander Lyons Solutions and a legal recruitment specialist with more than a decade of experience. Enshrining flexible working and breaking free from outdated practices, he helps beleaguered and disenfranchised lawyers to find spaces that are right for them.

Alexander Lyons Solutions is a market-leading recruitment firm specialising in legal, HR, sales and marketing and a range of other sectors. Since its founding in 2011, the firm has established itself as a go-to in the UK consultancy market.

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