With business levels strong, and the job market tightening, employers will have to show they care for their staff if they want to keep them

The general economy remains sluggish, but the great majority of solicitor firms seem to be back at, or ahead of, the levels of work they saw before the pandemic hit. So the Society’s latest survey of how practices are faring has found.

Why should that be? In the commercial sector, life has not become any less complex, quite the reverse, so professional advisers are likely to be more in demand than ever. Also some companies are still doing well, and there are thriving startups. As for personal clients, I suspect that, sadly, the gap between the haves and the have nots has widened rather than narrowed through the pandemic, and those who produce the bulk of instructions have probably been impacted the least.

Certainly it appears also from the Journal’s 2021 Employment Survey, covered in this month’s lead feature, that confidence levels are rising – as are pressures of work. Fully 50% of our respondents claimed to have become more stressed over the past year, and with the job market tightening there are already those who want to recruit but find they cannot. That of course risks becoming a vicious circle if they then place undue demands on existing fee-earners, who might then seek to leave for a better balanced life elsewhere.

It is not always the firm’s fault if it proves hard to attract new blood, but from comments posted to our survey it is evident that some have yet to grasp the basics of good people management. Low morale combined with one or more of poor management, what are perceived as unreasonable workloads, and pay rates that have seen little if any change, does not indicate a firm with a bright future in today’s climate.

Nor will employers get away with “talking the talk” on matters such as staff wellbeing, if they do not also put in place accessible channels for anyone with a concern to feel they can have it properly heard and discussed. People soon spot it when deeds do not match words.

I don’t want this all to sound too negative. There are also many solicitors who are treated well by their employers, and appreciate it. But on present trends, those who fall short had better raise their game pretty quickly if they want to be still in business in a few years’ time.

This issue brings to a close another tumultuous year. What next year has in store will begin to reveal itself soon. But for now, I hope each of you is able to enjoy a decent Christmas break and share the happiness of the season. Have a good one. 

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