Latest news – Legal services cash coup; Revenue fall for US law firms; Pandemic helps work-life balance

[Australasian Law Management Journal,General Management,Marketing & Business Development,People Management(HR),Strategy & Leadership] May 27, 2020

Funding boost to aid frontline legal services

The Australian Government’s additional $63.3 million injection of funds for frontline legal services to support people impacted by COVID-19 is greatly appreciated by the Law Council of Australia.

The Government has earmarked $20 million for domestic violence, $29.8 million for tenancy disputes, insurance, credit and debt-related problems and work-related claims, and the remaining $13.5 million on IT upgrades. The Law Council says it is a welcome injection of funding that will help meet a rise in demand for legal services.

Law Council President Pauline Wright says the pandemic has shone a spotlight on the immense value of frontline legal-service providers and the critical role they play in our society. “The legal profession, not least those in frontline community legal services, have continued to work tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure that the needs of the public have been met,” she says.

“This is a sector that has been chronically underfunded for years. However, despite this, it continues to serve our communities to a standard well beyond available resources and infrastructure. We are particularly pleased to see a recognition that greater investment is needed to address the IT capability of the legal assistance sector.”

While the importance of accessible legal assistance is heightened in times of crisis, these services are continually in high demand. Without long-term and substantive funding increases, some of society’s most vulnerable people will continue to slip through the cracks. These funding shortfalls were a key focus of the Law Council’s Justice Project, released in 2018. It noted that due to the shortage of funds – and although 14 per cent of Australians fell below the poverty line – only 8 per cent qualified for legal aid.

“These are extremely challenging times and a properly funded legal assistance sector is an essential element of how we respond and recover from the COVID-19 crisis,” Wright says.

The Law Council hopes that the injection of funding by the Government will be the first step towards a properly funded legal assistance sector.

 

Survey highlights big revenue drop for US firms

New research from the United States points to the impact that COVID-19 is having on law firm revenues.

According to surveys conducted by legal marketing company Martindale-Avo, more than 80 per cent of American law firms have seen revenues fall as a result of the pandemic. Alarmingly, 27 per cent of these firms reported that earnings have fallen by more than half. This is in spite of the fact that almost all of the firms in the survey continued to accept new clients.

The result has meant marketing spending has been cut or gone on hold in most cases, while about one in five firms has already cut staff through layoffs and furloughs. At the same time, the need for legal representation remains strong, with 52 per cent of consumer-respondents saying they still plan to hire lawyers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Legal consumers are hurting along with the legal industry, but there is still a significant appetite for legal help across the country,” says Diana Schulz, president of communication at Martindale-Avvo.

Lawyers also expect to be waiting a while before things go back to normal. Once lockdowns ease, many surveyed attorneys say they believe it will take some time before their practices return to normal. Sixty-two per cent of attorneys believe it will take anywhere from four months to a year for their firm to return back to where they were financially pre-COVID-19.

 

Better work-life balance during COVID-19 lockdown

Sixty per cent of office professionals who have transitioned to a remote setup during COVID-19 say they have better work-life balance without a commute, according to new research from recruitment agency Robert Half.

What’s more, three out of four workers would like to telecommute more often when restrictions lift, while about the same number will rethink shaking hands with business contacts in future.

Robert Half surveyed more than 1000 professionals for the survey. The results indicate that many professionals feel some apprehension about going back to their typical workspace, with 56 per cent worrying about being in close proximity to colleagues. More parents (79 per cent) than those without children (68 per cent) expressed a preference for continuing to work from home after the pandemic ends. At the same time, about half of the respondents believe it will be more difficult to build strong relationships with colleagues if teams are not in the same building as much.

Other findings include:

  • 72 per cent plan to schedule fewer in-person meetings in future;
  • 61 per cent anticipate spending less time in common areas in the office;
  • almost 6 in 10 will reconsider attending in-person business events and travelling for business; and
  • 73 per cent think there will be fewer in-person social and team-building activities with colleagues.