There is change on the wind and it’s blowing across the Australian law field. Casualisation of the workforce has been ramping up in recent years and while it’s nothing new for unskilled industries, the professional sector has been spared the brunt so far, but now, legal eagles may have to clip their wings and look to flexible work options to remain competitive and survive long-term.
Industry trends coupled with internal and external business and market pressures are sparking never-before-seen, structural change within law. The traditional, inflexible, work-until-you-drop BigLaw model is facing a stiff challenge from NewLaw.
“[With NewLaw] you only pay lawyers when you've got work to pay them from – freelance lawyers essentially… Flexi lawyers’ allow law firms to have a variable cost of labour and meet client pricing demands, which are only intensifying with time. [Under BigLaw] fixed labour is there waiting for the next big job even if there is not enough work for them on a continuous basis,” explains Dr. George Beaton.
1. The sky-high costs of BigLaw are simply unsustainable in the face of our emerging markets
2. Massive technological change
3. Change in client purchasing strategies and expectations
4. An overabundance of legal firms
5. The NewLaw model of flexible work is easy to implement and test out and could be trialled on a volunteer basis for as minor disruption to business processes as possible.
6. You can start small; putting just a handful of staff on a flexi-basis, then when you get into the swing of things you can expand the flexi-arrangement to other departments. Structural change is tricky and hard to reverse, so starting slow and building momentum is the safest way to ensure successful implementation.
7. “Flexi-lawyers allow law firms to have a variable cost of labour and meet client pricing demands which are only intensifying with time. [Under the BigLaw model] fixed labour is there waiting for the next big job even if there is not enough work for them on a continuous basis”, says Dr. Beaton.
Are you feeling overworked and out of time? Then talk to your boss and make a case for flexible work arrangement to achieve better work/life balance: (bullet points please)
Compressed work week
Time in lieu/banked hours and making up time
Part time work
Part year work
Purchasing additional leave
Taking additional unpaid leave
As Dr. Beaton reminds us, all things must eventually come to an end. “The BigLaw model has been around in its current form since the Second World War. It has served clients and owners and employers… extraordinary well, but like all business models, they eventually run out of puff.”