What do solicitors see are the most significant challenges facing the profession in the second half of 2020?
We aim to ensure that our work at The Solicitors’ Charity supports every solicitor across the profession (area of law, level, geography, race and age). Our current focus is on understanding the day to day challenges facing solicitors going back to work post lockdown. The project includes surveys, one-to-one conversations and focus groups, and we will use the insights and research gained to shape our future support for the profession.
We recently ran a virtual event with a brilliant group of volunteers which included practising solicitors, law societies and past recipients of our support. The aim was to listen to these people and garner as comprehensive a view as possible.
During the discussion we explored:
- The challenges already faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
- If there are specific areas of the profession that might be facing particular problems in the future
- Views on the level of personal resilience of solicitors to future economic challenges
- What The Solicitors’ Charity could do for the profession in the shadow of COVID-19, a recession and a possible reduction in legal work
Some of the issues the profession encountered since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic included couples trying to work from home while sharing childcare, the pressure of childcare while still trying to get work done and bill hours, losing family members, and not being able to have a typical funeral all teamed with mental health issues.
It seems that some firms (large and small) furloughed employees in haste, not knowing what might lie ahead. While prudent short term, this had a knock-on effect for team members who weren’t furloughed whose workload inevitably increased, further adding pressure on them at such an already challenging time.
The discussion touched on specific areas of law that have been particularly affected, such as solicitors in entertainment and film, particularly those in in-house roles. A specialist such as these sees no sign of the landscape changing in the immediate future, which has impacted their pockets and their wellbeing.
In some places, family lawyers have seen their workload increase. However, some have reported that they are struggling. Working from home, heavier workloads and a lack of contact with colleagues who really understand the strain leaves them struggling with the emotional side of what their work involves and not being able to talk to colleagues to offload like they’re used to.
From a mental health point of view, junior lawyers have been turning to wellbeing apps to help them cope with the effects of the pandemic and firms with a dedicated wellbeing team have increased their activity to help employees.
It’s great that so many in the profession were willing to share their views. This will really help us target the next stage of our support around COVID-19.
Looking to the future and how the Charity might be able to help those who may see a reduction in work as well as trying to recover from the effects of the pandemic and recession, the focus group attendees were full of suggestions. The rise of freelance lawyers trying to establish their businesses could see them needing help to make it a success. A crucial area was highlighting the opportunity for lawyers, who are likely to have many transferable skills, to retrain in another profession. Teamed with this was the very fact that solicitors may not have updated their CV or been for an interview in years. Building on the help that the Charity’s partner, Renovo, provides would be a huge help in this area.
Our partners at LawCare, which provides emotional support, was unknown to some, so raising awareness of what’s available to solicitors who have or may not want to use its in-house help for mental health concerns will be important.
On the ground’ insights like these are vital in forming a realistic picture of the experiences of those we are here to support. The information garnered from our surveys, one-to-one conversations and focus groups will enable us to pinpoint the worst affected and the most in need with relevant and practical support.
We would love you to be a part of future conversations and focus groups so you can share your experiences and be a voice for your profession. If you are interested, just get in touch here.