A Changing Legal Landscape: Why Aspiring Lawyers Should Keep Tabs on Agile Working Practices and the Legal Gig Economy
One of the key trends affecting the legal profession is agile working practices. This article will take a look at what agile working means for law firms, discuss the latest trend in industry: the legal gig economy as well as what this means for aspiring lawyers.
The Gig Economy: An Increasingly Popular Working Pattern
In essence, the gig economy is a working pattern for self-employed individuals who pick up ‘gigs’, or a string of one-off or short-term work, and then receive payment for their work.
These ‘gig’ transactions are generally undertaken through a digital cloud-based platform (think Uber, Food Panda and Deliveroo), with the individual having control over their own scheduling with the ability to work remotely if need be.
As to how the gig economy fits in the legal industry as it stands, it is important to observe one major trend law firms are now paying very close attention to: agile working.
A Key Future Legal Trend: Agile Working
Agile working is a mode or medium of working that empowers lawyers to work with maximum flexibility and minimum constraints. It is attractive for legal businesses and staff alike. For lawyers, agile working means increased freedom from timesheets and target billable hours and for businesses, this means reduction of very expensive overheads. This is a win-win because it pushes law firms to adopt innovative business practices and leading-edge technology that delivers better value for clients, whilst boosting productivity and overall happiness for their staff.
This shift towards flexible lawyering is largely a reflection of a new generation of lawyers with certain understandings regarding the way they’d like to work and live in the 21st century. Which, according to George Bisnought (MD at platform law firm, Excello Law), have “increasingly less compatible with traditional working patterns”. A growing cohort of law firms have already taken steps towards agile working. Dentons staff, for instance, (ranging from UK partners, associates and legal executives) can work from home one day a week, on an informal basis. Clifford Chance goes further and encourages partners to work from home when possible.
It is important to mention a major contributing factor towards the popularity of agile working is due to shifting commercial expectations the delivery of legal advice/services should be process-driven, scalable and cost-transparent. For instance, Lawyers on Demand (“LOD”, a global legal resourcing provider) contracts out legal manpower on a project-by-project basis as in-house support to corporate clients (including UBS, Gucci and Vodafone). Other like Red Bar Law offer barrister-led fixed fees at a cheaper price, making their savings through keeping a lean team with free-lancers working from home to supplement extra manpower at busy times. In response, law firms like Hogan Lovells and Allen & Overy have adopted similar cost-cutting strategies by keeping leaner teams (with agile working policies in place), whilst the rest is contracted out by legal resourcing services like Cognia Law or Elevate.
In line with these new commercial expectations, law firms increasingly have to compete with NewLaw/alternative legal providers who can offer their lawyers flexible schedules and non-traditional, stress-free working environments. On this, Alex McPherson, co-founder at Ignition Law stress agile working extends to factors like ‘lighting, temperature, décor, type of laptop’ their staff use as being central elements to boosting productivity, and ensuring eventual success of the firm.
How does the Gig Economy fit in this picture?