Bloomberg Law
July 1, 2021, 9:00 AM

ANALYSIS: Law Firms Are Grappling With a Host of HR Challenges

Linda Ouyang
Linda Ouyang
Research and Data Analyst

Attorneys are observing a growing number of challenges related to human resources at their law firms, according to results from Bloomberg Law’s 2021 Law Firm Benchmarks Survey. Compared to last year, the survey reveals that lawyers’ concerns have shifted away from business-building and remote work to an increased focus on factors related to employee well-being and job satisfaction.

From 2020 to 2021, the challenges with the largest shifts among law-firm attorneys were retaining talent, attorneys feeling overworked, lack of personnel to handle the current workload, and low office morale.

Although business is looking up for law firms, the main challenge they face this year is being able to meet an expected increased demand for legal services. Bandwidth seems to be stretched thin as more attorneys are seeing their colleagues overworked (37%) and their firms lacking in sufficient personnel to handle the current workload (33%)—increases of 25 and 22 percentage points, respectively, since last year. Meanwhile, the percentage of respondents citing remote work issues and lead generation for new business as challenges for their law firms fell by seven and six percentage points, respectively.

At the top of the list, the most common challenges cited were attorney well-being (55%) and retaining talent (39%). In an industry that demands so much from its employees, it’s difficult to reach a healthy work/life balance. And with law firms offering unprecedented raises and bonuses to associates, many lawyers are tempted to take their talents elsewhere.

While lack of diversity in the workplace remains a top challenge overall, it is one of the few challenges that seems to have improved since last year, falling four percentage points. This is a step in the right direction, because inclusivity is closely tied to well-being. Firms should continue prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion to ensure that employees of all backgrounds feel welcome in the workplace.

Bloomberg Law recently launched the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Framework as a way to standardize diversity reporting in law firms and highlight those firms that meet or exceed a standard of diversity. Law firms can participate by submitting diversity data by Aug. 31.

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