The new normal: five ways legal careers may change in light of lockdown.

October 22, 2020

We recently moved past the 200-day mark since lockdown was first introduced. Since March, the legal industry has experienced an overnight shift in expectations as lawyers worked remotely while also juggling responsibilities that had usually been left at home once they stepped out of the front door. For many firms, it has also meant attitudes towards flexible working changing for good.

We’re all Zoom pros now. We’re all in a new routine. We’ve figured out how to work – and work out – in living rooms, dining rooms or kitchens. Presenteeism is no longer the priority (except on screen perhaps). A way of working that, pre-lockdown, was probably several years away from being mainstream in the legal sector became the norm in a few weeks.

Lawyers have been proving that they can have a better-quality home life and a productive work life at the same time. At Level we hear it in conversations with lawyers every week – hardly anyone wants to go back to “normal”.

And, in a world where partner promotions, bonus structures, training contracts, lateral hiring and drawings have all had to be rethought, put on pause or scrapped completely, for many lawyers it’s been a time for taking stock. Reflecting. Reprioritising.

It’s fair to say Covid-19 could prove to be the sunset on working life in law as we knew it as a new, exciting dawn emerges. So, alongside the normalising of remote working, how else might legal careers change in a post-Coronavirus world?

  • A renewed focus on wellbeing

Free breakfasts, beer taps, ping-pong tables, team-building events. Many firms have tried different tactics to build ‘culture’ and increase colleague engagement. But this year we have undoubtedly seen an increase in the focus on wellbeing – and that means more than a few drinks events. Work-life balance is the new norm and an expectation that firms will respect wellbeing and balance may be as important to legal professionals from now on as how much they’re paid.

  • Recalibration of priorities

Similarly, we expect more lawyers to reject the “cult of busyness” and turn their focus towards personal fulfillment and happiness over climbing the career ladder. We could even see more people opting out of the rat race altogether, choosing to have less stressful jobs to save their minds for what they love.

  • Optional commuting

“Gosh, it’s nice commuting at rush hour 5 days a week” – said no one ever. Add on the risk of Covid-19 transmission and enthusiasm for commuting has reached an all-time low. And with social distancing measures almost certainly staying in place for some time, the days of going to the office every day could well be gone forever.

Offices won’t be at full capacity with their one-way system redesigns and greater spacing between desks for some time. Some haven’t opened yet. The daily commute could easily become weekly for some, with a trip to the dining room on other days to log on from home.

  • Work where you want

Location, location, location? Not any more. Gone are the days when you had to commuting distance from the office. If remote working is now at least half of the working week, where you live matters less. Just last week we heard from a lawyer who plans to travel the world while still working, when Covid restrictions are lifted, staying with friends or in rented accommodation. As long as there’s decent Wi-Fi, it doesn’t matter.

As an agile business, it’s never mattered at Level where people work. The peer support and teamwork is there when lawyers need it – whether that’s a day in the office or Zoom calls. What matters is the work people do, who they do it with and the great clients they do it for.

  • Less full time, more freelancing

With changing needs and a greater focus on work-life balance, we also expect more lawyers to consider going freelance – choosing when they work, where they work and for whom they work. Three months off in the summer with the family? No problem.

Working at somewhere like Level offers lawyers a combination of control and flexibility while still being able to develop professionally. Our focus on media, entertainment, tech and sports law means our lawyers are surrounded (albeit virtually) by great people working together for great clients and bouncing ideas off each other.

So demand more …

More than ever, lawyers want meaningful careers but not at the expense of everything else. They want to work smart but also flexibly and increasingly on their own terms. The new normal emerging every day will make that ever more possible. At Level, we’re looking ahead and excited at the prospect of even more lawyers using this unusual time to realise their ambitions, take control of their careers and redesign their lives to suit them.

If you are a lawyer specialising in media, entertainment, tech or sport considering a move away from traditional law and would like to explore what Level can offer you for the next stage of your career, please contact Amy Sullivan for a confidential discussion.

By Amy Sullivan

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