Latest news – Report highlights impact of legal profession; COVID-19 leaves lawyers exhausted; Flexibility the new norm

[Australasian Law Management Journal,General Management,Marketing & Business Development,People Management(HR)] November 12, 2021

Law Council report corrects perception of lawyers

A new report released by the Law Council of Australia articulates the contribution lawyers make to the community and addresses misconceptions regarding the profession.

“Every day I speak with lawyers who are making a real difference in the lives of Australians without expecting any recognition,” Law Council of Australia President Dr Jacoba Brasch QC says. “As a profession we have been very reticent to promote the contribution we make and I think the result is that many people either have a limited understanding of all that my colleagues do on behalf of clients and the community, or actually believe some of the false stereotyping we are subjected to.”

As the peak body for the Australian legal profession, the Law Council appreciates the importance of identifying and quantifying this contribution to ensure it is well understood within the broader community. The Lawyer Project Report notes that the Australian legal sector is worth $23 billion and has a trade surplus of more than $600 million.

It also notes that there are about 90,000 practising lawyers; about 6000 barristers and 84,000 solicitors. Of the latter, about 67 per cent are in private practice, 16 per cent in corporate legal and 12 per cent in government.

In a speech delivered in 2007, then-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of NSW, the Hon James Spigelman AC QC, highlighted the positive social, economic and political contribution made by the legal profession and its failure to communicate the significance of this contribution with the broader community. The new report endorses such sentiments.

“Even if we just look at the direct employment and economic benefits provided by the legal profession, it is immense,” Dr Brasch says. “Over 100,000 Australians are employed within the legal sector and the total market size of the legal services sector is estimated to be approximately $23 billion.

“This stimulates our economy and assists local communities through payment of taxes and rates; commercial leases and investment; and lawyers’, paralegals’ and administrative staff salaries help support families, pay mortgages or rent, and buy goods and services from other Australian businesses.

“But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The democracy, legal protections and economic foundations that make us the ‘lucky country’ would not exist without the legal profession. Through its integral role in the administration of justice, the legal profession is vital to the health of Australian society.

“Lawyers offer a voice and tools to all members of our community seeking justice. Thanks to the strength of Australia’s pro bono and legal assistance sectors and our specialist not-for-profit and charity lawyers, the most marginalised and disadvantaged within our community are able to access assistance when they need it.”

In 2020-21, Australian lawyers provided 641,965.75 hours of pro bono work, according to the latest Australian Pro Bono Centre report. This is over 16 per cent more pro bono hours than in 2019-20.

The Lawyer Project Report concludes that lawyers play a vital role in well-functioning societies and their often hidden contributions make the profession a unique and integral part of the community.

A full copy of the Lawyer Project Report is available here

 

Pandemic leaves half of all US lawyers exhausted: Gartner

COVID-19 has left most American lawyers exhausted, according to a new report from Gartner.

The survey of 202 corporate lawyers in July 2021 revealed that 54 per cent of lawyers are exhausted to some degree, with 20 per cent scoring as highly exhausted. “The fact that many corporate lawyers are exhausted is probably not that surprising to legal leaders after the pressures of the pandemic,” says James Crocker, senior principal, research in the Gartner Legal & Compliance practice. “But what stands out is the degree to which even moderate levels of exhaustion lead to severely negative outcomes for the individuals themselves, the legal department, and the overall business.”

Gartner evaluated exhaustion levels by using a modified Bergen burnout inventory, which is a set of questions commonly used to quantify exhaustion. Of the 20 per cent of corporate lawyers who scored as highly exhausted, 41 per cent of them showed signs of psychological distress, 68 per cent were looking to leave the organisation, and 61 per cent frequently delayed or killed projects in which they were involved.

Gartner says the most common approach to mitigating exhaustion is intuitive – free up capacity and reallocate work away from lawyers who are visibly burned out. This does work, but in a limited way. From the results of this survey, it led to about a 16 per cent drop in exhausted lawyers.

Highly engaged lawyers are 70 per cent more likely to explore novel ways to help business partners meet objectives; they are 30 per cent more likely to explore ways to improve department processes; they are 143 per cent more likely to show discretionary effort; and they are 17 per cent less likely to be actively looking for another job than their moderately engaged counterparts.

 

Traditional work hours go out the door

Companies are embracing new ways of working, but are they ready to ditch the traditional eight-hour workday? Research from business consulting firm Robert Half shows that just over four in 10 senior managers (41 per cent) give employees the ability to choose when they work. Twenty-seven per cent of those respondents do not mind if their direct reports put in fewer than 40 hours a week, as long as the job gets done.

Managers most likely to offer flexible schedules work in:

  • large companies with 1000 or more employees (44 per cent)
  • marketing (48 per cent), legal (42 per cent) and administrative (41 per cent) departments
  • hybrid teams, where some employees work in the office and some work remotely (45 per cent).

While some employees may have complete autonomy over their schedules, that does not mean they’re slacking off – or reaping the rewards. Despite the newfound freedom, in a survey of more than 1000 workers:

  • 72 per cent say they need at least 8 hours a day to get their job done
  • 43 per cent report attending more video calls now than six months ago
  • 48 per cent never completely disconnect from work during business hours and feel obligated to respond to messages and requests immediately, even during breaks.

Click on the link to an infographic of the research highlights.