Law firms shift focus from profit to people as COVID-19 pandemic continues

February 01, 2021

Sandpiper Partners and Williams Lea’s new survey, a follow-up from their May 2019 COVID-19 survey, sheds light on law firms’ changing priorities as they put more emphasis on employee well-being over profitability.

NEW YORK, NY, Feb. 1, 2021 – Williams Lea, a leading global provider of business-critical support services to financial, legal and professional services firms, and Sandpiper Partners, LLC, a recognized education and business consulting firm, announced today the publication of the results of an Instant Survey, New Survey Reveals Shifts in Emphasis from Profits to People.

The results were gathered from real-time polls conducted during last year’s virtual roundtable series on Reimagining the Future of the Law Firm: How Attorneys and Staff Work. Over 400 US and UK law firm leaders participated.

Clare Hart, Global CEO for Williams Lea, said, “Our roundtable series brought together leaders from the world’s leading law firms to discuss the ongoing impact of the pandemic on law firm employees, processes and service delivery. We saw the opportunity to gather real-time feedback from panelists and participants regarding how they’re addressing the challenges of remote working and workplace engagement.”

According to Lynn Glasser, President of Sandpiper Partners, “The results show an emerging shift in law firm priorities. When we conducted our first COVID-19 survey in May 2020, the majority of law firms cited business growth and managing collections as critical focus areas. Seven months later, when asked what was causing the most uncertainty, most law firm leaders cited concern about attorney and support staff well-being and issues relating to return to offices and remote working.”

Law firms, known for notoriously long office hours and face-to-face meetings, are usually resistant to change. However, the pandemic required immediate action as firms scrambled to adjust to the constraints of virus-related workplace protocols and minimize its economic impact. Now, more than 70% of law firms reported a greater willingness to adopt new processes, technology and ways of working as the greatest impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their firm.

The survey also revealed a contrast between fee earner and support staff productivity. Forty-one percent (41%) reported that fee earner productivity remained the same while remote working, compared to support staff who were slightly less productive than in the office (40%).

Another key trend shaping law firm operations is the “hybrid” workplace, a more flexible work arrangement that both lawyers and support staff can look forward to when the majority of the workforce returns to the office. While 46% of law firms cited that firmwide policy on remote working has yet to be determined, 25% reported that they were looking at a “three days remote/two in office” hybrid model and 22% were considering a “two days remote/three in office” arrangement.

Hart added, “Flexible working arrangements will be a vital part of workforce strategies moving forward. With more employees working from home, law firms realize that certain support staff functions can be virtualized, leading them to consider options, such as outsourcing, to create a more agile and efficient support structure.”

Download the full report to get more insights.

About Sandpiper Partners, LLC

Sandpiper Partners of Clifton, N.J. is dedicated to helping law firms, companies and non-profits achieve greater success in their endeavors including expanding existing activities and entering new lines of business. For 15 years Sandpiper has led the way in innovative business management solutions and education in the postgraduate legal field including running as many as 30+ virtual events a year for clients on various aspects of the business of law and substantive law topics. Its clients are located throughout the United States and Europe, and it has completed projects in more than a dozen U.S. cities, London, Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Milan.

About Williams Lea

Williams Lea is the global provider of skilled business-critical support services to financial, legal and professional services firms. We connect people, processes and technology to manage documents and streamline key operational functions. From our humble beginnings as a financial printer in London, to our position today as a global outsourcing leader, our business is built on a strong heritage, great relationships and a talented team. Our 5,700 worldwide employees work onsite at clients and onshore/offshore at Williams Lea operations providing unrivalled support and helping clients transform their support operations.

With revenues of over €400 million, Williams Lea is backed by Advent International, one of the largest global private equity investors.