The COVID-19 pandemic has touched so many areas of our lives. As we begin to emerge into a post-pandemic world, the impact on some areas is only just becoming apparent. The legal industry has witnessed varied experiences over the last 12 months as some practice areas became busier and others quieter. As we enter the research cycles for the 2021/22 guides, many firms are asking, “How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect legal directories and our rankings?”.
Chambers & Partners and The Legal 500 announced that they will monitor the situation and take a pragmatic approach as submissions deadlines draw near. However, it is clear that the last year will have an effect on the submissions of many firms and Partners.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the legal industry?
It has been clear throughout the past year that the pandemic has disrupted the legal industry. Few practices have been unaffected completely, with most either seeing an increase or decrease in transactions. Areas such as M&A, private equity investments, capital markets, and real estate have seen their transactions put on hold as companies and individuals look to safeguard cashflow. Meanwhile, employment, healthcare, technology, litigation and types of insurance law (i.e., pandemic-related clauses), to name a few, have become busier. Bankruptcy and restructuring lawyers have also seen their workload increase over the pandemic, by allaying clients’ fears regarding their assets and livelihoods.
What is speculated across the industry is the effect that the pandemic may have on legal directory submissions and rankings. Kidd Aitken has already responded to questions from clients asking if they should suspend submissions for this cycle, due to a depleted practice that may not reflect their previous standards. The answer is no, we always recommend firms continue to submit, even during quieter periods.
However, there is the potential to glean positive aspects from the COVID-19 pandemic and the global structural changes that resulted from it. We look at different ways to frame your pandemic year in your legal directory submissions.
How can our submissions reflect the effects of the pandemic?
“We have strengthened our client relationships.”
Over the last 12 months, some firms may have experienced fewer transactions in their practice. During this quieter period, firms may have been approached by their clients in a more advisory capacity. Building trusted relationships through this type of work can reap future benefits, as clients who heed the advice of their lawyers in tricky times are likely to retain their services in the future. This may particularly be the case with firms who have given commercial advice: helping protect a client’s business, financially restructuring, navigating tax incentives and aligning operations with the “next normal” in a post-pandemic world.
“We have developed more agility and pioneered creative ways of delivering our services.”
Particularly within the legal sector, Partners who previously travelled extensively and held a more client-facing role now have more time for hands-on involvement in casework. Matters which previously required a full team of lawyers may be overseen by a smaller team due to extra time becoming available and capacity for deep work. This not only strengthens the trust in the business relationship but also enables lawyers and other stakeholders to offer more time and attention to their clients, something that may not have happened before.
The digital transformation of services will only continue to increase, after being expedited during the pandemic. Innovations such as e-signature contracts, digital exchange of legal documents within high security parameters and the use of online platforms for sharing client resources. The ability to remain at the cutting-edge of digitalisation helps protect a firm’s reputation and legacy, being better placed to serve the changing needs of their clients in this digital age. Being adaptable to new processes and ways of working will impress the legal directory researcher.
“Our employees have achieved a better work-life balance while increasing productivity.”
The pandemic has called into question many elements of our previous day-to-day lives. The role of the office is one of them. In the pivot to working from home, an already growing trend accelerated by the pandemic, businesses reinforced digital infrastructures to enable teams to work collaboratively and productively online. With productivity remaining high throughout the pandemic, some firms are questioning whether offices are truly necessary and looking at if they can redeploy this resource elsewhere while reducing overheads. Some large international firms have already implemented new hybrid working policies after recognising the benefits for both the firm and their employees. Freshfields and Clifford Chance have already announced such policies.
These initiatives also go some way to address gender inequality in the industry by restoring lawyers’ work-life balance and accommodating childcare commitments. By establishing such policies, firms can expect increased employee loyalty and job satisfaction as well as a positive reputation in the wider market as a modern and forward-thinking, dynamic place to work. If there are plans to continue remote or flexible working post-pandemic, this is worth mentioning to the legal directory researcher during the Chambers or Legal 500 interview.
“The pandemic has revealed training and development opportunities.”
The unexpected downtime some firms have experienced over the last 12 months may have been used to identify multidisciplinary training and development opportunities for team members. Pre-pandemic, a firm may have concentrated on transactions, but this quiet period allowed lawyers and firms to recognise the benefits of exposure to intra-practice work and expertise. Helping them stay one step ahead by broadening their expertise. There are a variety of training opportunities available at all levels; from cross-practice seats and industry secondments for trainees and junior lawyers, to leadership and employee wellbeing courses for senior staff. Any show of investment in learning and development by a firm is certainly worth highlighting in your submissions.
After an uncertain 12 months, the impact of COVID-19 on the legal industry and legal directory submissions is now being felt. The pandemic has been transformative for the practice, but it is possible to demonstrate positive outcomes to the legal directory researcher. For Chambers, Legal 500, and other legal directories, showing your firm to be forward-thinking and adaptive to different circumstances will positively influence your rankings and, ultimately, your wider industry reputation.
It is understandable that some firms may be unsure how to compile a legal directory submission in the aftermath of the pandemic. If you think you or your firm would benefit from advice and guidance at this time, our new Best Practice Guide to Chambers & Partners Submissions is available to download. Alternatively, do get in touch for a free 30-minute consultation to find out how Kidd Aitken can support you with your legal directory submissions.