Increase productivity without increasing headcount

The ‘Great Resignation’ has been a source of much consternation for law firm leaders, with a mass reshuffling of talent sparking greater accommodations for individual lifestyle and workplace preferences. But whilst firms can and should do all they can to retain top talent, there must also be cognisance and greater uptake of technologies that will not only make up the shortfall, but lay the groundwork for long-term productivity and success.

The ability of Australian law firms to attract and retain staff, Lyndal Kennedy muses, “has never been more challenging or urgent”.

Ms Kennedy – who is the general manager of product innovations at LEAP Legal Software – says that a “perfect storm” has been created for many firms, with the mass exodus from the legal profession being preceded by skills shortages. 

Given the current war on talent, she says, firms have to look for ways to “increase productivity without increasing headcount”, whilst simultaneously ensuring that there is an equitable caseload for lawyers, so as to support healthy and happy work-life balances.

Coutts partner and head of employment and injury compensation Karena Nicholls adds that talent has always been hard to retain in the legal profession. The global pandemic has, however, “triggered a rethink” as to the hours, travel and what individuals are willing to give to their employers, offering those individuals a greater degree of bargaining power in their roles. 

“When I was completing my law degree, you would take what you could get. But I can see there has been, and continues to be, a real shift in this space,” the Sydney-based practitioner reflects. 

“The profession is no longer driven by money and firm position but, rather, by family, lifestyle, opportunity, respect and value.”

But while practitioners may be motivated by new factors relative to pre-pandemic working life, the hurdles to overcome remain in place, and are now potentially compounded by adaptation to remote and hybrid working whilst ensuring the health and wellbeing of staff members, Ms Kennedy suggests. 

“Additionally, progressing and completing matters, executing documents, conducting meetings remotely whilst juggling personal commitments such as caring for children has added to the strain,” she says.

Lyndal Kennedy

“With job seekers having the upper hand, to stand out from the crowd, it is imperative that you provide your lawyers with a proven cloud solution with an amazing user experience that enables productivity whether they are working from home or from a mobile app.”

— Lyndal Kennedy

“Increase work satisfaction, using a fully-integrated solution that provides a seamless user experience by giving your lawyers all the tools necessary to execute a matter from beginning to end.” 

“[And], staying connected with colleagues and clients using integrated communication tools has never been more important. The productivity gains through online collaboration such as client portals to secure exchange documents leads to greater client satisfaction and loyalty,” she details. 

Having such a comprehensive software system in place, Ms Nicholls argues, gives firm leaders a overview through which they know what and where resources are needed, or even exist. 

“By implementation of savvy training and technology, you will be able to continue to output despite what is happening internally,” she says.  

“Resignations will happen – some for growth, some for change, and some because of lifestyle shifts that the pandemic has highlighted.”

“Be prepared, no matter the challenge.” 

Finally, Ms Nicholls warns, firms leaders should “never feel comfortable” with their chosen software.  

“Challenge the why and how you can improve. Look for solutions and keep up-to-date with the needs of the legal profession, your clients and what the market needs from you,” she advises.

Looking ahead

This ongoing period of mass resignation, or perhaps reshuffling, is – more than anything – an opportunity, Ms Nicholls surmises, for law firms to re-evaluate what they need, how they operate, and then ensure they can reward and retain talent through myriad measures that are idiosyncratic to the needs of those staff members, 

“Restructure, revisit and devise a strategy,” she submits.

“What may be a driver for one staff member may not be for another. Coutts accepts change, and grows with it. By doing so, some amazing things have happened.” 

Ms Kennedy agrees, noting that continuous innovation is essential: “LEAP has been at the forefront of legal tech innovation for 30 years,” she declares.

“We transitioned to a cloud-based offering over 10 years ago, and continue to challenge the status quo and push new frontiers in innovation.”