Law firm associates expect permanent legal industry change amid Covid-19 job security fears
Around 39% of associates say workloads have been cut even as billable hour targets stay the same
A majority of law firm associates worldwide expect the coronavirus pandemic will lead to permanent changes for the legal industry, according to new research from Major Lindsey & Africa (MLA).
More than half of 1,335 associates surveyed in the US, the UK and Asia said they were concerned about job security, with just over a fifth worried about potential cost cutting measures. Some 39% of respondents said they had already seen a reduction in their workload as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, while roughly 94% said their billable hour targets remain unchanged.
Ru Bhatt, a partner in MLA’s associate practice group, said: “Billable hour requirements have emerged as a flashpoint for associates, some who are facing salary cuts and reductions in workloads, and others who are struggling to juggle work with child or family care responsibilities. For these reasons, we’re seeing a strong desire from associates to see the billable hour target changed in light of this pandemic.”
Practice areas where associates have seen the biggest slide in workloads are real estate (58%) and IP (43%). Meantime, associates working in bankruptcy practices said they had seen their workload increase 53%, with 44% of healthcare associates also reporting an increase.
Uncertainty around job security is causing anxiety for some law firm associates. While more than half of respondents are satisfied with the wellness resources firms have provided during the pandemic, around 10% of associates reported mental health as a primary concern.
Stephanie Biderman, managing director in MLA’s associate practice group, said: “Efforts to shine a light on mental health in the legal profession have received significant attention in recent years, and these concerns have only amplified during this crisis. We’re glad to see that firms are stepping up to the plate to support associates’ well-being at this time.”
The survey also found that male associates were more concerned about the impact of remote working on partnership track while their female peers were more concerned about issues around childcare.
Roughly 95% of associates expect the pandemic to change remote working practices at their firms for good, with another 57% expecting it to cause permanent changes to the need for physical office space.
Despite the disruption, more than two-thirds of respondents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the levels of communication from their firm, with more than half of associates saying they still feel very connected to the partners they work for.
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