Legal managers and leaders: your workforce needs to change very soon

Are you prepared?

Published 04/05/2021

Published 04/05/2021

Most managers and leaders in the legal industry would agree that their people are their most valuable asset. Why, then, does future workforce planning often take a backseat in the broader planning process?

According to Legal Workforce Planning expert and The College of Law Teaching Fellow, Daljit Singh, the lawyer’s work, workforce and workplace is on the precipice of change. 

In this Q&A, Daljit takes us through the critical changes that will fall upon the legal industry in the coming decade – and how to ensure your firm thrives in this new and unfamiliar environment. 

Q. What is workforce planning?

Workforce planning is the process of mapping out what your business needs to do to have the right workforce in place to achieve your long-term strategy. 

Typically a three-year plan or longer, it considers the skills and capabilities your organisation will require to succeed and thrive in the future.

Q. How are legal workforces changing?

We can see the ‘future of work’ as affecting three core areas of an organisation:

  1. The work (the what)
  2. The workforce (the who) 
  3. The workplace (the where) 

Q.How is the work changing?

The work and workforce of the future are intrinsically linked because the workforce will actually be a mix of people and technology coming together.

But first, let’s look at the work. 

Emerging technologies such as AI, legal bots and blockchain are key to faster service delivery in the legal world. Repetitive and administrative tasks will increasingly be automated, which means staff will spend a lot more time focusing on higher value work. 

This is great news for legal staff who will be engaging in more meaningful, satisfying work. But it does have major implications on how legal businesses staff their workplaces.

Q.How is the workforce changing?

When planning your future workforce, you need to consider the technologies you’ll need – and the skills your staff will need to use them. 

You’ll also need to think about how this hybrid of people and technology will impact the size and composition of your workforce. 

Currently, it’s common to have a lot of junior people to help with routine work, with the funnel of staff getting smaller as you approach the senior levels. But, with many of these tasks becoming automated, you’ll likely need a more even weighting of junior, mid and senior staff.

This means you will have a much smaller pool of junior talent to draw on, so succession planning is going to become more and more vital – as are staff retention strategies.

Q.How is the workplace changing?

Even before COVID-19, work-life balance was an increasingly important criteria for staff when selecting their future employer. A large part of this, of course, is the ability to work from home.

After a year of mixed onsite and remote working arrangements, everyone has experienced an alternative reality from the 9-5 office workday. And the benefits have gone both ways – for firms and their staff. 

The legal industry discovered that, on top of the lower rental costs, many employees were thriving with this new arrangement and benefiting from greater work-life balance. 

It’s likely the pandemic will permanently change how legal work is performed. We will have a model where there will be a core location – the office – where we meet for coworking and collaboration. But we will also spend a lot of time working from home.

Therefore, the key question firms need to ask is: How will we make this work – from a cultural, collaboration and efficiency perspective? 

Firms need to put serious thought into how to optimise the success of this model, ongoing. 

Ready to plan your future workforce?

It’s time to start thinking long-term about the workforce you need to achieve your business goals.

The 12-week Workforce of the Future course will teach you how to: 

  • Understand the purpose and challenges of workforce planning in contemporary legal settings 
  • Develop the technological and cultural components of workforce planning 
  • Create a workforce plan to support the strategy for your legal business 
  • Develop a change management strategy to implement your workforce plan 
  • Apply effective written and oral communication skills to communicate your workforce plan 

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