Coronavirus: What has been the direct impact on the legal sector?

With the covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns that have been put in place across the globe, there has been an effect on most, if not all job sectors.  A lot of data has been released around how different sectors have been hit, but how has the legal sector fared?

Going Remote

Many law firms adapted quickly to remote-working. As discussed in our previous blog post, this is likely to be something that continues post-lockdown. Law firms are seeing the unquestionable benefits from providing more flexible working practices. 

Prior to the pandemic, many law firms were addressing concerns around long-hours culture. Concerns were raised about the effects of stress on mental health within the legal professional. There is no doubt that many, if not all lawyers work in a stressful profession. Working from home over the last 4 months has allowed people to spend less time commuting and more time with family and pursuing interests that are non-work related.  This way of working is here to stay. Law firms will seek to embrace a more ‘balanced’ way of working.

Differences Across Sectors

The practical implications of Covid-19 have been evident across a range of legal areas.  Many building projects that were put on hold during lockdown are slowing starting to move again but the impact on the real estate and construction/projects sector has been significant.  Many corporate deals slowed down to a complete stop but again, we are seeing positive signs of progress once more.

Employment lawyers were kept busy due to the introduction of the unprecedented furlough scheme. This sector is likely to remain active as organisation look at levels of restructuring in the months to come. It would be anticipated that lawyers specialising in insolvency will have plenty of work while the economy recovers.

Many law firms have had to adapt to how they interact with clients. Many processes and procedures are moving to a long overdue digital approach. How lawyers maintain client relationships in this ‘new age’ will be vitally important.

Money Saving Measures

We also saw many companies make use of the furlough scheme. Some introduced cost-cutting measures with short-term pay reductions, 4-day weeks and reduced or deferred Partner drawing. Law firms are likely hire fewer newly qualified lawyers this year.

These measures were introduced to protect businesses and save jobs but it’s inevitable that further cost-savings will be required in the months ahead.  It’s likely that the legal sector will see its share of redundancies.

What’s Next?

Looking forward, we are optimistic about the legal market and its recovery in the short-medium term.  There will still be a demand for lawyers with niche legal skills. This new way of working will result in some lawyers considering their options (some outside of the profession) leading to vacancies.  Some law firms are also viewing the situation opportunistically. They recognise that notably at the senior end of the market, there may be an opportunity to hire lawyers who may not have previously considered a move.

If you are impacted by the changes to the legal market and considering your options, please get in touch for a confidential discussion.

Thomson Legal

With 20 years’ experience placing lawyers with leading law firms and in-house legal teams in Scotland & Ireland, Thomson Legal is here to assist you in taking the next step in your legal career.