There are huge differentials in the way firms have dealt with the recession. Some firms tried to visibly do the right thing, with some avoiding redundancies by changing to flexible working practices.
The Legal Week Employee Satisfaction report in association with Hays Legal was conducted in April/May 09 with over 4,000 responses from lawyers in the UK top 50 firms. Surprisingly, there was a real lack of anger in the responses. Des Cahill, Head of Research and Legal Week noted in the survey of the top 50 UK firms that the most important criteria in 2009 was employees feeling valued and work life balance. This mirrored the results in 2008. Partnership prospects were seen as more serious by those with 6years PQE.
Notable for marketing and communications teams was that a significant number of people in the survey thought internal communications was a real issue that needed to be addressed. Firms need to be come more transparent and involve assistants in management decisions. Many people also feel that they are not really being listened to. Less than 6.5% said they were satisfied with the effectiveness of feedback- this figure is lower for magic circle firms.
Over 70% of respondents said they would recommend their firm to an employee or friend- a high result considering the time the survey was carried out.
Respondents were more satisfied with salary and benefits in 2008 than 2009, consequently feeling more valued as employees.
According to the survey, compared to last year lawyers were more worried about redundancy but only 1% more were actively looking for another job- 13% this year compared to 12% last year. Yvonne Smyth, Managing Director of Hays Legal explained this. “There is a cautiousness amongst candidates and for those already in a role, there needs to be a compelling opportunity to induce a move. Roles that are available are very skill specific and clients are increasingly choosy in terms of the skills they desire.”
She concluded, “Both law firms and candidates are looking to the future although whether there will be a return to the war for talent remains to be seen.”
What was clear by the research though is the impact that the that recession has had on HR within law firms. With many firms involved in some form of restructuring proves, HR professionals found that they because a vital part of senior management. It is in HR’s interest to retain the attention of the partners once business returns to normal.