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Most small firms now work from home, most of the week

New research reveals that more than half of SME law firms are operating from home at least half the week, with one in three firms doing so at least 80 per cent of the working week.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 05 October 2022 SME Law
Most small firms now work from home, most of the week
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Cloud-based legal practice management software provider Smokeball has released its second annual State of Small Law Australia Survey, which deduced that “the new normal is here to stay”.

The results — compiled following interviews with 154 small law firms across Australia in August 2022 — show that just over one in three small firms (36 per cent) are working from home either four or five days per week. That is, one-third of small Australian law firms are almost exclusively employing work-from-home arrangements.

A further one in five (20 per cent) are working from home either two or three days per week, while less than half (44 per cent) are working from home just one day out of five per week.


The findings mark a stark difference in perspective from Smokeball’s earlier survey, which showed that one-third of small law firms were not confident that the market was properly equipped to manage remote working in the long term. Such feelings were borne out, the provider noted, by the primary challenges identified in 2021: time and client management, health and wellbeing of staff, managing costs, and billing and collecting fees.

In the latest survey, however, small law firms are focused on different challenges — perhaps justifying the increased uptake of and normalisation of WFH arrangements.

At present, Smokeball reported, small law firms see their top five challenges as being improving operations and workflows through technology (59 per cent), improving firm profitability (53 per cent), growing or retaining a client base (51 per cent), enhancing client experience (46 per cent) and attracting, retaining or upskilling talent (39 per cent).

Reflecting on the results, Smokeball chief revenue officer Jane Oxley pointed out that companies across the board are reverting to the pre-pandemic, “business-as-usual” lens, but that the working environment for law firms, particularly smaller ones, has “changed forever”.

“We are certainly entering a post-pandemic phase in Australia [in which] firms are changing their business focus from staff wellbeing, and building their remote working model back to profitability, and increasing their client base, but are doing this in a wholly new environment and way of working that they are still getting used to,” she outlined.

“They need to allow themselves that adjustment period and support a flexible working model, as the whole team settles into their new normal.”

Ms Oxley’s sentiments were supported by the findings around what firms’ top five priorities are for the coming 12 months: 83 per cent said growing or retaining a client base, which was followed by improving firm profitability (81 per cent), improving operations and workflows through technology (73 per cent), enhancing the client experience (62 per cent), and billing and collecting fees (55 per cent). 

Lawyers Weekly will soon publish a story detailing the extent to which small law firm profitability has increased or decreased in the past 12 months, as per Smokeball’s findings. 

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