Research by international law firm Eversheds has lifted the lid on a commonly accepted element of every young lawyer’s working life: the hours they are expected to work to advance in their chosen profession, as their superiors did before them.
There’s nothing new about that, you might think, but Eversheds' ‘Law Firm of the 21st Century’ report reveals a clear difference of opinion between law firms and clients when it comes to achieving a credible work-life balance, and whether it is a realistic goal in the first place.
For while 46% of partners agree that a work-life balance should be a key objective, 48% believe that it is a ‘contradiction in terms’ and that 24/7 client demands mean it is inherently impossible. Over half the clients surveyed, on the other hand, felt that firms should be able to allow young lawyers the same flexibility that they afford their own staff, such his been the evolution in management in the wider world of business.
Indeed, many commentators argue that those firms who believe that attaining a work-life balance in the legal profession is completely impossible need to think about the issue seriously if they are to recruit and retain the best people. The report supports such concerns. It found that 36% of partners were worried about staff retention given that the so-called 'Generation Y' has clear aspirations about work-life balances, not to mention the problems already being faced by many law firms to recruit and retain staff in the first place.
But the Eversheds report concluded that ‘internally, we can’t see an end to long hours and a compromised work-life balance in many firms’; however, it did expect that technology-based solutions may well help to ease the burden. It also predicted that, moving forward, law firms may offer alternative career paths for lawyers and that such steps could provide staff with a more malleable working environment.
This article first appeared in Legal Strategy Review, issue 1
Research by Eversheds reveals a sea-change in young lawyers’ work/life balance expectations. Could this be the end of the 12-hour work day?