Do you know your Zoom from your Hangouts?
Older solicitors are more likely to struggle with tech compared with their younger colleagues in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and moves to more agile ways of working, a survey of small law firms has found.
Sixty-one percent of over 45s experience difficulties adapting to new technology when working from home, compared to 34% of under 45s. This was one of the key findings published today by LexisNexis in its annual Bellwether Report.
The 25-page report, ‘OMG or BAU [business as usual] — COVID-19 and the legal industry’, looks at the sweeping effects the novel virus has had on the legal industry. It is compiled using data from interviews and online surveys completed by over 150 solicitors in small firms and small offices of larger firms across England and Wales.
Law firms were able to move three-quarters (75%) of their staff to effective home-working within a matter of weeks of the lockdown being imposed, the research says, adding that the transition and provision of technology has been “smooth” despite almost a third of respondents claiming not to have a laptop prior to the lockdown.
“Technologies that have been resisted for years have now become a necessity — forcing the adoption of new ways and tools of working,” Chris O’Connor, small law lead at LexisNexis, told Legal Cheek.
Rather promisingly, the report has found that the current public health crisis has brought about a wellbeing change to the legal industry. Twenty-six percent of respondents consider stress and mental wellbeing to be a signifiant problem at work, compared to 90% in 2019. Further, almost half of respondents reported that they have seen a greater focus on their mental health in the wake of COVID-19 home-working.
The research looked at the main concerns affecting the opposing generations. For the older generation (who tend to make the decisions) it found the need to manage their firms remotely and get up to speed with new tech to be their paramount consideration. For juniors, isolation is their primary concern: two-thirds (66%) of junior lawyers feel isolated compared to 37% of senior (in age and experience) lawyers. They miss the buzz of the office and the networking opportunities it offers, the research finds, while reduced support and oversight from managers is also cited as a concern.
Looking to the future, more than half of younger solicitors want to retain some form of home-working after the crisis. But, interestingly, juniors are keener to return to the office in some form at least. It is seniors who are more likely to prefer working from home indefinitely in greater numbers.
O’Connor said: “Our 2020 research shows that whilst COVID-19 has brought new stresses and strains to the legal world, it appears to have been the long-awaited catalyst for action on wellbeing.”
“But the story is complex. With COVID-19 suppressing business, work pressures have naturally eased. This will have helped to alleviate stress and reduce working hours. But as workload picks up — will this remain?”