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Our Remote Working Consultancy Model

25 May 2016

Senior Partner, Richard Nelson, reflects on last week’s National Work at Home Day and how his law firm’s remote working model can offer prospective consultants a better work-life balance. 

I confess that I missed the fact that last Friday was National Work at Home Day. I didn’t notice things being that much quieter as I worked a full day in London.

What I had noticed however was that two surveys have revealed that 24% of British workers would sacrifice salary for a better work-life balance and an American survey showed that 23% of American and Canadian lawyers would choose to leave their employment and set up in practice on their own but for the expense.

It does seem to be the case that people wish to have more control over their daily working life and that the concept of working hard to boost the resources of others, whether they be partners or employers, seems to have changed over the last few years.

This doesn’t, of course, mean that the commitment to clients has changed and in addition, the regulatory obligations of a solicitor nowadays are felt to be more burdensome than ever. There is a real sense that the regulator does not have any sense of sympathy for the profession and what’s more, little or no empathy.

In days gone by incomes were relatively guaranteed. If you kept your nose clean then you were pretty well guaranteed to make a reasonable living. This went back to days before prescribed price competition when there were scale fees for conveyancing and the form of competition was on service to your client because work came by reputation and as a consequence referral. We are of course a long way from those days and the pressures of modern practice are ever greater.

This can make life very difficult for people at any stage of their professional career. Young solicitors who have had parental leave will often feel pulled in two directions and are often unable to enjoy the flexibility they need as a parent returning to work.

We had this very much in mind when we started the concept of self-employed consultants working under our regulatory and insurance umbrella. The concept is that we take the accounting supervisory and regulatory burden leaving the solicitor free to work when they want and how much they want. There are no targets and there is no judgement from your peers and, as a consequence, the stress and pressures of practice and of performance analysis in a financial sense are removed.

We realised early on that a young parent may not only want to work part-time but may want to be flexible on the hours that they work. Some people like working in the early morning, others late at night. Some will want to work around school hours. Others will want to work every hour there is because they are financially ambitious. Ours is a model that suits everyone.

We quickly realised that this model was not only suitable for the young parent but also for those who were more advanced in their career. There are many solicitors who feel they are making a contribution to the firm which is far in excess of the contribution of their partners. This system allows them to have a direct benefit from their own performance.

For those who are thinking of starting as sole practitioners, there are extra benefits. Not only can you start without undue delay the regulatory and compliance issues are removed and the financial risk removed. If you are a principal with PII you are personally responsible for the premium but in addition for run-off cover if you close down. This liability goes behind any limited liability.

It is equally relevant at the most senior end of the profession. In days gone by, senior partners approaching their retirement age or stage would be allowed to ease off their financial performance and concentrate on maintaining their contacts for the benefit of the firm. Perhaps it is the fact that the sourcing of work has changed so much, particularly as a result of the internet revolution but those contacts are not valued in the same way.

Senior equity partners may be pressured to stand down into an employed role well short of their retirement date. The consultancy model that we operate suits those who would like to maintain contact but without the burden of targets and performance reviews from their peers. They want time either to spend quality time with their grandchildren, perhaps on the golf course or in indulging themselves in more holiday. It is often said by those who retire that they do not understand how they found time to go to work and it becomes apparent as you approach retirement age that your working life has meant that you have had to ignore or forsake many other pastimes you enjoy.

So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that so many people were dissatisfied with their lot in one way or another. Perhaps a quarter of the profession here and abroad being disillusioned is something that should not surprise us. It is something however that employers should take on board because a happy workforce is often a productive workforce. The culture of the firm should not be one of resentment or of work being a drudge. Compliance is necessary, but that blow can be softened if the benefits can be spelt out and if the operation can be straightforward and unobtrusive.

From our point of view, we are interested in growing our consultancy base. It adds knowledge and wisdom to our practice as well as allowing us to provide a broader range of services to the clients and as to the clients’ interest, what is noticeable is that solicitors who are taking up this opportunity do not wish to sacrifice a client-focused service and client care. On the contrary, they are giving themselves time and the opportunity to provide this. They continue to build and develop the respect from their clients for the good service they provide and they are the ones in control of their working hours and the work life balance.

If you think that this sounds a good idea for you, or if you are wanting to reduce your hours but look after a few cherished clients without the pressure of hitting targets, please feel free to call us, speak to any of the partners or visit our recruitment page for more information.

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