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Only 6% of small firms focused on staff attraction moving forward

Few SME firms are concerned about drawing staff back into the office and are prioritising growing their client base and improving profitability, new research has revealed.

user iconLauren Croft 20 October 2022 SME Law
Only 6% of small firms focused on staff attraction moving forward
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Cloud-based legal practice management software provider Smokeball has released its second annual State of Small Law Australia Survey, showing a number of growing trends amongst boutique and SME firms.

As previously reported by Lawyers Weekly, 36 per cent of small firms are working from home either four or five days a week, whilst one in five (20 per cent) are working from home two or three days per week, and just under half (44 per cent) are working from home one day a week.

The survey was compiled following interviews with 154 small law firms across Australia in August 2022 — exploring what the challenges were for smaller firms over the last year — and what they’re focusing on moving forward.


Reflecting on the last 12 months, 59 per cent of firms said that their biggest challenge was improving operations and workflows through technology, with profitability (53 per cent), growing or retaining a client base (51 per cent) and enhancing client experience (46 per cent) also ranking high on the priority list.

In terms of getting staff to come back into the office, only 11 per cent of firms said it was a challenge over the last year, with just under 6 per cent saying it was a priority moving forward. Additionally, only a third of firms said they were prioritising attracting, retaining or upskilling talent over the next 12 months.

This comes after the 2022–23 budget announcement revealed numerous tax-relief measures announced “to support investment and create jobs” for SME businesses, including incentives around increased training for staff and incentives for uptakes in technology.

Over the next year, 83 per cent of small firms said they would be looking to grow and retain their client base, with 81 per cent focused on profitability and 73 per cent prioritising improving operations and workflows through technology.

Smokeball chief revenue officer Jane Oxley said that compared to BigLaw firms, smaller firms have a number of different priorities — namely around creating a flexible working environment and attracting staff.  

“The biggest thing we noticed in the survey was that while BigLaw’s highest focus recently has been on attracting and retaining talent, our survey showed that this is not as high a priority for small law firms. We also saw that small law is not focused on getting their staff back into the office,” she said.

“Our feeling is that one of the benefits small law firms have is the ability to create a more flexible workplace, embracing remote work more, flexible hours more, and creating cultures that engage with the particular staff they hire. So, while big law is struggling with retention and attraction of staff, small law seems to be doing much better.”