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How the Desire for Hybrid Work is Driving Competition

Last updated Thursday, November 17, 2022 15:08 ET , Source: The Foster Group

Today, the ability to work from home has become a non-negotiable for a segment of the attorney population.

Orlando, FL, 11/17/2022 / SubmitMyPR /

In the past, legal firms could count on a few key factors playing a role with attorneys who were conducting a lateral search and entertaining offers, including compensation, practice area, and the potential for career growth. One factor that rarely entered the conversation, however, was the opportunity for remote work. Today, the ability to work from home has become a non-negotiable for a segment of the attorney population.

“The desire for a hybrid work schedule is a core component of the conversation that recruiting firms are having with attorneys and law firms,” says Michelle Foster, Founder of The Foster Group. “Attorneys, while not typically looking for an arrangement that is 100 percent remote, are clear that their preference is finding a position in which some portion of the week or month is spent working from home. Most firms have accepted this new normal and are quick to highlight the opportunities that they have for hybrid work, especially when they are generous.”

The Foster Group is a full-service legal recruiting firm specializing in the placement of partners, counsel, and associates. Michelle has placed more than 400 attorneys throughout the course of her career and has provided advice and counsel to countless others.

The variety of hybrid opportunities

Attorneys seeking hybrid opportunities will not find a consistent landscape. The size of the firm plays a role in the opportunities that are available. Smaller firms — specifically those with less than 30 attorneys — are offering fewer hybrid work opportunities, and many firms that size shifted back to a non-remote workplace rather quickly.

“Where hybrid work is an option, the amount of flexibility extended to attorneys will vary from firm to firm,” explains Drew Foster, Managing Director of The Foster Group. “It is not unusual for remote days to be designated by the firm. Some, for example, permit remote work on Mondays and Fridays, but expect attorneys to be in the office the remainder of the week. A more flexible example allows attorneys to be remote 50 percent of the month, with attorneys choosing for themselves what that will look like.”

With larger firms, the extent to which remote work is allowed also varies based on the practice group. In areas where face-to-face collaboration is seen as critical, in-office hours are more rigidly defined in order to keep productivity at higher levels. Opportunities also vary based on office location, with those in large metropolitan areas tending to be more flexible than those outside of big cities.

Effective integration in a hybrid workplace

One of the major challenges posed by the hybrid work model involves its impact on the process of integrating new attorneys into a firm. Integration is a key step in communicating culture and establishing relationships. Attorneys joining a new firm, even though they want the flexibility of a hybrid schedule, also desire the opportunity to meet and get to know their colleagues face-to-face, rather than on a Zoom call.

“A growing number of firms are picking up on this desire and designing both in-person and virtual integration meetings and events for new hires to meet their colleagues,” Drew says. “They are taking a thoughtful and transparent approach to prospective lateral hires to ensure that their hybrid model will not interfere with the integration process. This approach permits the flexibility and autonomy associated with remote work, while still providing a collaborative office setting where attorneys can build relationships with their colleagues. When done well, this model and approach provides a competitive advantage for recruiting and retaining talent.”

The desire for more traditional workplaces

One noteworthy trend that recruiters are seeing is that some partners, more typically men, advise that they like to go to the office most days.

“Partners report that they miss having ready access to their colleagues and the camaraderie that is found in that type of environment,” Michelle explains. “Firms that want to be competitive with these attorneys will look to find ways to provide meaningful face time with colleagues.”

It is difficult to overstate just how significant the shift toward hybrid work is for the legal profession. For legal recruiters, discussions about remote work were rare prior to the pandemic — few considered it a reasonable expectation — but today, it remains a primary factor for many attorneys that is driving competition. As a result, firms that do not offer some measure of hybrid work will be at a competitive disadvantage in the talent war.

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