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How your firm can retain talent during a skills shortage

  • February 5, 2018

After 2017’s climate of uncertainty, largely triggered by Brexit, UK law firms are understandably cautious going forward. However, on the whole, they are demonstrating their robustness by expressing a desire to continue with business as usual. In fact, our latest white paper, The Challenges and Opportunities Facing Legal firms in 2018, reveals that a significant majority (66%) of firms are looking to increase their headcount over the coming year. Of those businesses, 4% expect to increase staffing by 5% and 11% predict that it could be by as much as 30%. So, clearly there is considerable optimism about the opportunities for headcount growth in the coming year.

However, there appears to be challenges ahead surrounding the availability of labour. Around two-thirds (67%) of those surveyed say a skills shortage is their top concern for 2018 and 20% cited staff retention. And with business lobby group British Chambers of Commerce saying that skills shortages reached ‘critical levels’ in the last quarter of 2017, it is now vital for firms to retain the talent that they already have. So, which retention strategies can be used to incentivise existing staff to stay?

Flexible hours

The most important thing is to consider what your staff value the most. New research from HSBC reveals that 89% of employees view flexible working as a key motivator – more than the 77% who were influenced by financial incentives. Yet our survey found that only 33% of respondent firms offered flexible hours and fewer still provided part-time options. While it is encouraging to see that practices are increasingly aware of the demand for adaptable working patterns, those that don’t offer them to staff – and at all levels of seniority – risk losing them to businesses that do.

Remote working

Our survey revealed that 22% of firms offer staff the opportunity to work outside of the office. And, in a profession where long hours are the norm, there’s no doubt that many employees would welcome the opportunity to dispense with their commute on occasion. Does your firm make use of the technology available that facilitates this, such as cloud storage?

Training and development

In its recent Human Capital Trends report, Deloitte found 51% of companies rated ‘investing in talent’ as an urgent priority. Consequently, it is a surprise that none of our survey respondents cited training and development as a key retention offering at their firm. Millennials, in particular, will be hard to attract without excellent training and development programmes: a recent report by PwC found that 74% of the millennials it surveyed said that learning new skills to remain employable was something that they valued highly. And, over a quarter said this was the most important factor in making an organisation an attractive employer. Given that this generation will make up three-quarters of the UK workforce by 2025, firms cannot afford to overlook their needs: doing so will mean that they could fail to engage with a large share of skilled talent over the coming years.

Bonuses, sabbaticals and other offerings

Of course, while our research shows that flexible hours, remote working and training opportunities are important ways to invest in and retain staff, they aren’t an exhaustive list. Other benefits such as bonuses, sabbaticals, employee discounts, paid volunteering leave and a holiday allowance that increases over time, are just some of the other ways to incentivise staff. The best way to find out what your staff would value is to simply ask.

Not only are these methods excellent ways to keep staff engaged, they will also make your firm more attractive to potential recruits. At a time of significant skills shortages, are you doing all that you can, to attract and retain?

To request a full FREE copy of the report, click here.

Furthermore, to speak to the team about your recruiting needs, call 01772 259 121

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Secured a new role? Top tips for your first few weeks

  • October 6, 2017

Just landed yourself a new job? Congratulations!  Your effort applying and interviewing has certainly paid off, however the hard work shouldn’t stop there. Now is the time to ensure you are not only fully prepared for the role, but also that your first few weeks are a success and demonstrate you are the right hire. So what can you do to ensure your first few weeks are a glowing success? Here are our top tips.

Build relationships before you begin


If you have a break between leaving your new job and starting the next, it might be all too tempting to put your feet up and relax. And while it is important to be well rested and mentally prepared, make the time to create the foundations for strong professional relationships. Write a personal thank you to your interviewer, or hiring manager, and take time to find out what you can about your new line manager and colleagues. It is also advisable to ask if there is anything you can do to prepare – is there any reading you should be doing or research about the firm and clients you will be working in? All this will position you as an individual that is serious about their career and passionate about making a good first impression.

Review your induction schedule

It’s likely that you will have received an induction booklet or handbook prior to your start date, make sure to set plenty of time aside to read them both thoroughly.  Pay particular attention to the dress code and give yourself plenty of time to source appropriate items. And if you haven’t been issued with a schedule or policy booklet, requesting one will certainly set a good impression with the employer. And remember, if you have secured your role via a recruitment consultancy, they will also be able to assist you with liaising with your future employer so make use of your contacts there.

The first few weeks


Regardless of how busy you might be in your first few days and weeks, it is vital that you take the time to introduce yourself to your colleagues.  After all, establishing the grounds for strong professional relationships not only creates a more enjoyable work environment, but it can also help you get to know the structure and culture of the business.

It is also advisable to schedule some time at the end of your first week to sit down with your line manager to discuss how you are finding the role. This will also offer the chance to get some initial feedback, and discuss anything you are finding challenging or would like more information about.

Professional development


The end of your first week also offers a great time for you to set yourself a 90 day goal which should include where you want to be and what skills you want to develop and acquire.  Once you have this in place, regularly review it to assess how you are progressing. And ensure that you make the time to review your skill sets and discuss opportunities to develop these – whether this is via internal or external training opportunities – with your firm.

Take a look at some our other blogs to gain some more valuable career advice.

Or take a look at our current roles to find your next game-changing role.

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AI becoming a priority for SME legal firms

  • June 19, 2017

You’ve probably heard all about artificial intelligence and its growing use in a number of widespread industries. And if you haven’t observed its use in a business context then you will surely have seen it in films like ‘iRobot’, ‘Ex Machina’ and, well…‘AI’. But the idea that businesses could harness the potential of artificial intelligence in a legal setting and use it to their firms’ advantage was surely only a distant dream?


Legal firms have increasingly adopted artificial intelligence led programmes for a few years now, indeed we wrote an article for Totally Legal on that very subject only last year. However, until recently this advanced technology was the sole preserve of firms with vast resources – and deep pockets – but that all appears to be about to change.

AI priority for legal firms

According to recent, extensive analysis conducted by our team here at Clayton Legal, small and medium sized legal firms both recognise the importance of the use of AI, regard it as an opportunity to be embraced and do not feel threatened by its impact on their business.

As one of the respondents to our research project, Andrew Kwan – solicitor advocate at Clear Law – put it, “This approach allows us some advantages including being agile within a changing legal market. Therefore I can see the utilisation of AI as being an opportunity to deliver greater value to clients, both individuals and businesses, by removing some of the administrative elements of the process.”

And it’s not only senior professionals who are experiencing this optimism. Miriam Khan – a junior colleague of Khan at Clear Law, made the point that AI and human skill sets should complement each other rather than take opposing sides, “The profound purpose of AI is to save the need for time, cost and energy on manual labour and increase efficiency. Why do a job that a computer can do for you?”

Opportunity for skills development

Our own managing director, Lynn Sedgwick, also commented on the increased adoption of AI by small and medium sized firms. “While firms such as Linklaters and Clifford Chance have moved to use AI in several different areas, this is very much about driving efficiencies, rather than eradicating jobs. AI is becoming a priority for legal firms and the smaller practices that we spoke to are also hoping to generate higher fees and ensure that processes can be and will be outsourced to machines.”

“For employers, this has huge benefits but it also offers their people more interesting work, making the workplace a more satisfying place to be in, in a marketplace where retention is key.  For legal professionals at all levels, the introduction of AI represents an opportunity to develop new skills, and for those who are open to change, to increase their value in the marketplace. The interpersonal and technological skills required to adapt to the new AI infused working environment are likely to bring benefits to all that choose to engage with them.”

“The human element can’t, at least yet, be replaced by a robot. Andrew Kwan really sums it up when he says: ‘I do not see AI removing the elements where you are a compassionate human. You can’t remove this from a process and expect a great result for your client.”

We would love to hear you views on the role that AI has to play at small and medium sized firms – do you agree with Lynn that the introduction of AI represents an opportunity to develop new skills and increase individuals’ value in their marketplace? Or do you believe that AI could ultimately lead to jobs being cut?

For more legal insight check out our website

Or to see some of our other insights take a look at our blog

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Is the concept of the billable hour dead and buried?

  • June 13, 2017

As we all know, the billable hour has been the de-facto payment structure adopted across the legal sector. In fact, according to Sean Braswell, a leading legal journalist, the practice dates back to 1975 and the American case of Goldfarb vs Virginia State where it was discovered that the prior ‘minimum fee’ structure was outdated and favoured richer clients. However, it appears as if this trend – and the idea of the billable hour as a whole – could be coming to end. But what does this mean for legal professionals and the firms they work for?

RIP billable hour

The trend of moving away from the billable hour gained momentum during the financial crisis when consumers started to look for more cost effective external legal guidance and began identifying alternative fee arrangements (AFA). These came in various forms including flat fees, request for proposals (RFPs) and reverse auctions over the once universally accepted hourly fee structure.

Why did this happen?

The financial crisis – rather obviously – put extra pressure on both individuals and organisations which started putting more of a focus on their legal costs and how to reduce them, improve efficiency and value for money so clients essentially get a fairer deal from their legal partner.

However, it looks like this renewed focus has in fact had a negative impact and led to a decline in output. Firms’ productivity has traditionally been measured on billable hours per lawyer, which presents leaders with a challenging situation as remuneration and bonuses have also traditionally been calculated by total number of hours billed.

A report from Thomson Reuters has also highlighted how billable hours have dropped in the last 10 years and gone from an average of 134 per lawyer in 2007 to 122 in 2016. That may not seem like a huge fall, but this monthly reduction – extrapolated over a full year – equates to a loss of 144 billable hours per lawyer per year, which ‘costs’ firms around £53,000 annually.

It would be unfair to suggest that this is solely down to a shift towards AFAs in recent years, however legal firms have a challenge on their hands bringing productivity up to its previous level. And legal professionals will also need to be prepared for change.

New skills

It’s likely that, as a result of this changing market, negotiation will become an increasingly sought after and important trait as firms seek those who have the ability to agree upon and adopt more flexible fee structures that are embraced by legal consumers. Professionals will also have to change the way they document the work they’ve done for clients. And let’s not forget communication, which will be absolutely pivotal as clients cast a more discerning eye on their legal partners. Perhaps most importantly, lawyers will also need to find ways to demonstrate how they can show value to the business beyond the numbers of hours they can bill for.

Do you think the age of the billable hour is coming to an end?

For more legal insight check out our website

Or to see some of our other insights take a look at our blog

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