A much-needed conversation and Dickensian management: your letters to the editor
A much-needed conversation
Jonathan Hodge’s Starting Out article ‘How to keep junior lawyers happy’ was an insightful read. I disagree with his sentiment that being five years’ PQE means ‘it is a bit rich to be telling experienced managers of firms how to retain and motivate junior staff’. Quite the contrary, the article is essential reading for managers/partners. I found it an honest and instructive appraisal of a junior lawyer’s position. It is compulsory reading for managers/partners concerned about developing the expertise within their business and ensuring that talent is retained.
Trying to build a long-lasting and satisfying career without encountering burnout is important, whatever position one is at in the profession. Recognising, as the article states, that not all of Jonathan’s contemporaries are necessarily working towards partnership does mean the profession needs to think carefully about what future business models may look like and how to retain talent.
The article underlines the fact that the very best lawyers are interesting people who want to sustain interesting and varied lives. Finding ways to support agile working and sustain a decent work-life balance is a much-needed conversation. The pandemic has shown us that there are new ways of working which should not be ignored.
Partner, Anthony Gold Solicitors LLP, London SW16
Celebrate this gargantuan effort
It was surprising and disheartening to read in the Gazette that many law firm workers are feeling pressured into working from the office, despite the ongoing pandemic and a third lockdown.
Our experience over the last 10 months has been one of total commitment from the legal industry to remote working, despite many having to implement new ways of working and technologies almost overnight. The idea that ‘the phones could not be connected’ might be used to pressure staff into the office is irresponsible and very much counter to what we have seen – particularly as outsourced support is so widely available and easy to set up, even on legacy phone systems rife with limitations.
Failure to roll out agile solutions or take government guidance on board will cause bad sentiment with clients, not to mention affect staff morale and wellbeing, as the article identified.
However, while the experiences of the few are worthy of note, it is important to celebrate the gargantuan efforts of the many. Hundreds of legal firms have kept their staff safe while also handling a hike in both call volumes and durations – all because they recognise the connection between being contactable and operational.
Hats off to all those facilities and IT professionals, senior leadership teams and managing partners who have torn up the rule book and deployed new ways of working. It is fantastic to see the agile shift in the industry – where once agility would have taken months to roll out, it has now been adapted in record time. I think this will pave the way for even more innovation, change and growth in the sector.
Head of legal, Moneypenny, Wrexham
Down with Dickensian management
We were surprised and disappointed to read John Hyde’s article ‘Law firm workers say they are being forced into the office’.
The behaviour described bears no resemblance to that experienced in the Devon & Somerset area; indeed, many firms are having to insist that staff remain at home to ensure a Covid-secure environment for those who really do need to attend the office. Naturally we know that firms want to get back to business as usual but many practices in our area are using this opportunity to consider the work-life balance of their employees with plans to offer more flexible working in the future.
There is a strong business case – not only is office accommodation costly, the option of flexible remote working is likely to attract better recruits to those firms which embrace this opportunity. If the three lockdowns have taught us anything it is that most employees can work responsibly and efficiently at home for some or all of the time, and for those who want to the rewards are mutual.
Please do not tar all firms with the same brush. We believe the days of Dickensian management practices are behind us and we trust confined to a very small minority.
Stephen Forsey, chair, Devon & Somerset Law Society practice management sub-committee
Tony Steiner, executive director, Devon & Somerset Law Society
Easing LeO backlog
Recently there have been reports of the Legal Ombudsman asking for increased funds from legal firms, partly for resources to resolve a backlog of complaints about solicitors and lawyers, at a time when many solicitors and lawyers have suffered financial loss because of the pandemic.
I fully agree that complaints involving legal matters must be investigated by people with the appropriate legal background.
However, many complaints involve administrative or other matters where the investigator does not necessarily need knowledge of the legal processes.
Would it make sense for the Legal Ombudsman to use organisations, such as mediators, to help resolve those administrative complaints, to allow Legal Ombudsman staff to concentrate on the wholly legal complaints? This could even be done on a regional basis, with different organisations working on cases from different parts of the country.
I fully admit that my organisation would like to help with such work, but I write these words not out of self-interest, but rather in frustration, because there is a cost-efficient and effective way of reducing the backlog to make life better for the complainants and for those against whom the complaint is being made.
Service director, Mediation MK, Milton Keynes