“Building back better” – an A to Z for leaders in law
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, leaders in law across the world have been slowly navigating their way to a new – or next – normal.
The challenges faced this year by leaders in law are substantial. The war for talent in the legal sector has never been greater, and with 2022 being widely hailed as “the year of the great resignation” leaders of in-house legal teams, law firms and the legal sector more broadly cannot afford to sit back and allow business and working practices to revert to the old order.
So what can leaders in law do?
In our view, what has happened with working practices over the past three years has created a once in a generation opportunity for leaders to examine their thinking, review their leadership approaches and to consider what is needed, for everyone, to “build back better.”
Fundamental questions need to be asked to provoke broader thinking and to deliver the desired outcomes for the legal sector. Just as society’s needs are changing, so are those of our clients, our colleagues and our global workforce.
Leaders in law need to consider how existing strategic imperatives are impacted by this new paradigm. For example, the adoption of digital transformation over the course of the pandemic has led to a seismic shift in working practices, and innovation is now seen as a core component of many business models in the legal sector. But will a culture of innovation and novel ways of working in the legal sector endure post pandemic? We suggest that one of the critical factors for success here is for leaders in law to adopt an organisational culture that promotes a growth mindset, where failure is seen as an opportunity for learning and where collaboration and creativity are rewarded. And this culture needs to be embedded throughout the business.
The landscape for business development and client relationship building also now needs to flex in light of the hybrid /remote working model. Leaders in law have an impetus to evaluate the behaviours, skills and actions needed to develop stronger client relationships and higher engagement within teams, particularly in the hybrid working environment. Leaders in law might wish to consider joint initiatives they can work on with their clients that will help bring them and their teams closer together after the pandemic. In our experience, many businesses in the legal sector are increasingly thinking about their societal purpose, and given this, they might also review how this relates to the work they do with their clients and whether there is an opportunity for partnership between them.
Inclusion is another area that leaders in law now need to focus on, particularly given the current war for talent. Leaders in law can seize this moment to expand the pool of talent for those entering the profession as well as encourage greater diversity of thinking within law firms, in-house legal teams and the legal sector more broadly. In our view, the key to creating an inclusive culture within the legal sector is a focus on the 3 C’s: communication; commitment; and collaboration. Leaders in law have an opportunity to develop a vision and culture of belonging, use this to inspire and motivate those in their organisation, and to work across all practices and business units to make the change. Leadership teams can also make it their priority to have conversations with clients and other stakeholders to address what has to happen to secure an inclusive, healthy and motivated legal sector for the future. Finally, we have noticed that our hybrid/remote working world has enabled us to see inside the lives of our colleagues, and that has opened up a fresh understanding of who we are and what we are outside of our lives in law. Leaders in law can use this as an opportunity to think through what they can do to respond to the changing needs of their people, and what steps they can take at an organisational level to enable employees to create sustainable work-life integration.
Throughout 2023, Michelle Bramley and Katie da Gama will address the fundamental questions that leaders in law need to consider in their A to Z of “Building Back Better.”
Michelle Bramley and Katie da Gama are executive coaches, former senior lawyers and business leaders at international law firms Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and DAC Beachcroft who now focus on leadership development in the legal sector.