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Over the last eight months, law firm managing partners have had to deal with a range of issues at break neck speed! Fortunately, so far finance hasn’t been high on the list because many firms are doing well, however this is something that may change as we go into 2021 and face the likely recession that will occur sooner or later.
According to Law Consultancy Network founder, Andrew Otterburn, “The main issues my clients are talking about at the moment relate to their people.”
There is an obvious concern for staff well-being, now that England is back in lockdown, and my impression is that most firms see this as something that is important and that they should be doing as much as possible to help. There are particular concerns with young people living on their own in flats with little outside space.
Another area of concern is the risk of losing people; good people. The first period of lockdown changed an awful lot for many people, and it has made many lawyers question their previous career plans and expectations of what they were looking for from work. Remarkably, a period when there was little you could spend your money on has almost made money a less important factor in people’s lives. So, some of my clients are starting to become concerned that they may lose one or two good people, probably quite senior people, and they are keen to learn what they should do to avoid this.
The key seems to be communications, talking to people, and above all listening. Clearly difficult when you are seeing people less, but this is a time for picking up the phone or suggesting a one-to-one Zoom call with your colleagues and just chatting about how things are and how they are finding things. Try and get them to open up and talk about how they are really feeling.
If people are looking for a change you may well be able to accommodate different working patterns, but you won’t know if you haven’t asked. Also, people want to know there is a plan and the firm and their positions are likely to be safe. You need to be conveying that plan – and of course you need to have one!
With many people working from home, they are much more accessible to head-hunters and recruitment consultants and they may well be getting calls. Head-hunters are reporting that people are much more relaxed and willing to open up, so if they are speaking to people outside the firm make sure they are speaking to you as well!
My colleague Helene Russell, a knowledge management specialist consultant was talking to a group of my clients recently and she made the point that “At a time like this, strong relationships become stronger but weak ones become weaker.”
It is important to be conscious of this and try to do everything you can to ensure people are not being forgotten.