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Law firms must be more adaptive and responsive

Law firms emerging post-pandemic will need to readapt and react to the changes from COVID-19 on many aspects of the profession.

user iconTony Zhang 27 August 2020 Big Law
John Arneil
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Expert witness provider, Unisearch, shared exclusively with Lawyers Weekly the results of its Legal Sentiment Survey.

The survey was conducted to gain a greater understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the profession’s working arrangements, workload, current concerns, and future-work expectations.

“The survey demonstrated that the industry has been affected by the challenges universally associated with COVID-19, but provided insight into future opportunities for firms to be adaptive and responsive,” said John Arneil, director of Unisearch.


The survey drew attention to the associated impact on mental health and market outlook in the current climate.

Concerningly, over a third of those surveyed, stated their mental health has been negatively affected, with only 20 per cent of lawyers feeling positive about the current business climate.

“Being a professional in the legal industry can be highly stressful at the best of times, and it is alarming to see the added impact of the pandemic on the mental health of lawyers,” said Mr Arneil.

Regarding workflow, over half of the lawyers surveyed advised they are working more hours compared to before COVID-19.

This was attributed to a combination of more billable work, family demands and increased administration, suggesting an increase in pressure compounded by being isolated from the office environment and the usual support network.

These findings are consistent with research conducted by the Harvard Business School and New York University in the global paper, Collaborating During Coronavirus along with the Momentum Media’s MyBusiness survey on the business of law.

Meanwhile, the Impact of COVID-19 on the Nature of Work findings, revealed a significant, and seemingly durable, increase in working hours.

In terms of working arrangements, the survey indicated that moving to remote work, along with an increase in videoconferencing to conduct meetings, has been widely embraced by the legal profession, with over half of survey respondents citing working from home as preferable.

A similar number consider working from home as marginally or even much more productive than being in the office.

Consequently, COVID-19 may have accelerated the desire for a more flexible working arrangement in the future, with nearly 60 per cent of survey respondents stating they would prefer a hybrid home and office work environment post-pandemic. 

Unisearch said the main reason given for this is a desire for greater flexibility, closely followed by less travel.

“The challenge for law firms, as well as the broader business community, is to ensure operational efficiency and that productivity is maintained among a remote workforce – though not at the expense of mental health,” Mr Arneil concluded.

We urge firms to prioritise measures that support mental wellness and promote work-life-balance, particularly when less access to in-person, office-based resources is present.”

This comes after the Momentum Media’s MyBusiness survey revealed that there would be various potential changes in the legal profession moving forward.