The one thing that law firms always seem to struggle with is human resourcing. Law is one of the few industries where technology has not managed to replace too many people. Well, not yet!
So as the post-pandemic new normal sets in, and firms’ re-open offices and understand the reality of the economy, they are taking steps to reduce their costs. Firms are issuing consultations about redundancies, deferring training contracts and reducing newly qualified salaries. Every firm hopes to complete these exercises without the glare of publicity. But that is just about impossible in the digital age and when disgruntled people receive unwanted news. It will be the poorer managed firms, making the deepest cuts, that will receive the most unwelcome attention. In the 11 years since the financial crisis, it has been a buoyant time for law firms whether located in the City or in the Regions.
The Marketing Budget Always Attracts the Eye of the Finance Partner
With salaries being the single biggest law firm cost by far, head count is going inevitably to be reduced. That will affect both fee earners and support staff. Budgets will be scrutinised too. The first ones that always seem to catch the eye of the Finance Partner are Marketing and Training. Weighty marketing tomes will inform that the worse thing you can do in a downturn is slash the marketing budget. But in law firms, there are few other places to look to cut costs without affecting headcount.
Law firms will want it to be known that they are not stopping their marketing; merely re-purposing it for the new economic reality. With so much uncertainty about the length and depth of the recession, it may be desirable for firms to lose marketing staff in favour of one of the many outsourced providers, like Sixth Sense Marketing which has an ex-law firm marketing director in its team. Agencies who are prepared to accept flexible terms regarding hours and no contract are set to do well.
It is no consolation that some excellent marketing people will lose their jobs in the weeks and months ahead, through no fault of their own. But there is opportunity in adversity. The jobs marketing won’t dry up entirely and many will regularly visit the PSMG Jobs page in the hope something comes up. Those marketers who went out on their own having lost their jobs in 2008/9 may reap some benefit now by way of new law firm retainers. These agencies may need to recruit from the enlarged law firm marketing talent pool to meet increased demand. Others may choose to start up their own business and reflect that redundancy was the best thing that happened to them. Fast forward to 2030 and there will be more stories to be told from the ‘ying and yang’ of law firm human resourcing.