Unexpected, unprecedented, and unwelcomed, COVID-19 turned 2020 on its head. The global impact has been the staple diet of news feeds for 18 months now, but how did it impact the in-house legal profession? We went to the ACC Australia membership in March-April this year to find out, with some surprising and some not-so-surprising findings.
While the pandemic left many jobless in other professions, it increased the pressure on in-house legal team across industries, and time pressure remains the most challenging workplace dynamic for in-house lawyers to manage. The survey found the already long working hours of the average in-house counsel increasing, with less than a quarter of those surveyed, (including casuals/part-time workers), reporting working more than 40-hours per week. One-third of respondents reported working more than 50-hours per week, and 10% working more than 60-hours per week.
There was a correlating dip in satisfaction with work-life balance, and we found that the more senior the respondent, the less likely they were to be happy with life-balance. This is a particularly problematic finding as CLOs set the benchmark of expectations in their teams, and dissatisfaction with life-balance is likely to have a negative flow-on impact in their departments.
The stretch felt in the profession has led to a 14% decline in pro bono service. Lack of time to commit to altruistic work was cited by 75% of respondents as their reason for not being involved in pro bono service. In addition, there was a sense that there is limited opportunities for in-house lawyers to donate their legal skills in corporate projects, and that if there were programs directly related to providing legal support, they would likely become more involved.
While pressure mounted for teams to manage workload, one-third of respondents had a reduction of human resourcing, as either full company-wide employment freezes were in place or a down-sizing took place. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprising, the more senior of respondents expressed having a greater sense of job security (53% CLOs, 47% senior lawyers) than junior (32%) or contract/casual lawyers (27%). Despite an uneasiness about the future of personal employment, there was strong optimism that recruitment would lift, with 26% of respondents expecting they would be hiring addition in-house counsel in 2021.
The Trends Survey also covers the greatest challenges currently felt in-house, the most commonly used technology, the future of virtual court rooms and barrister briefing, and factors at play when outsourcing legal services. We know your time is precious, so we’ve organised the report in a manner that enables to you to get an overview at a glance and scan through for the information that is of the greatest interest to you. Click here to download your copy today.