Legally Yours Lunch and Learn: “Too much work or not enough” with Fionn Bowd
19 May 2021
On Wednesday 19 May 2021, Fionn Bowd from Bowd Legal presented ways that lawyers could source work when faced with quiet periods in which there is not much work coming through the door. Bowd Legal is a full-service legal resourcing firm that provides outstanding lawyers to leading law firms.
The consequences of being overworked are well-known in the legal profession and beyond, however, what happens when lawyers do not have enough work is not often spoken about. We do not often speak about why it is so crushing when we do not have enough work.
Capacity management is an important topic to delve into – struggles to manage having too much work and not enough. Burnout and depression are widely spoken about, but we do not talk much about the consequences of having not enough work. Fionn is interested in ‘improving the lives of lawyers and being part of the solution so that lawyers can move towards what they want and away from what is doing them harm.’ The feeling of not having an impact in the way lawyers had intended, is comparably challenging to the psychological impact of being overworked. This can lead to a loss of diversity of experience and diversity of thought.
Why does it hurt so much when lawyers do not have enough work? Is this unique to lawyers? Fionn says, the reason why not having enough work hurts so much for lawyers is because it is personal. Lawyers sell themselves as an experience. Fionn contrasts this to a salesperson selling a widget—it is not about the person, it is about the quality of the product, the price, and the marketing of the widget. If there is a reduction in business because there is a reduction in demand for widgets, it is not personal. Additionally, some services are interchangeable. If we cannot get an appointment at our local hairdresser, we can decide to go elsewhere. However, lawyers sell themselves. Even when lawyers are on top of the law, client-aligned, their services are marketed in all potential avenues, when there is not enough work, it feels personal. However, Fionn provides reassurance: it is not personal. Often clients stick with the lawyers they know rather than moving to someone they have not worked with before, leaving a gap in client acquisition for new legal practices.
Fionn offers some potential solutions for when lawyers do not have enough work:
- Secondment firms – firms with a primary focus of giving lawyers work when they do not have enough, for example, Lawyers On Demand or Plexus. They offer part-time and full-time contracts in-house organisation or in government, they look for law firm lawyers.
- Satellite firms – they orbit around existing forms, examples include Corrs Orbit, KWM Connect, Minter Ellison Flex, Ashurst Advance and HSF Team Source. These firms are attached to existing big firms and share the resources and brand, but they recruit lawyers to go on secondment for capacity management. They look for lawyers who have had experience in big law.
- Umbrella firms – the two biggest umbrella firms are Key point Law and Nexus. They share marketing, brand and back-office function and referrals of. Lawyers may join as a principal and practice under the ‘umbrella’ of the firm. There is potential to build a team or share lawyers across the organisation. The big advantage of this option is cross-referring of clients and matters within the umbrella firm.
- Free-range lawyers – connect lawyers who are not in major cities with clients, this focuses on people who cannot go into the office and wish to work remotely.
- In Counsel – broad client base and small to medium size law firms, lawyers can join as a principal practitioner.
- Bowd Legal – service lawyers in supply chain, help to place lawyers where they are needed. Bowd also helps to provide expertise where a lawyer wishes to retain a client or matter but needs to consult an expert on a certain area of law.
- Marketplace – complements other avenues for gaining work by providing opportunities to network, for example Legally Yours
Fionn additionally shared an option that Bowd offers for law students or recent graduates. Where boutique and smaller firms are not yet ready to hire full-time staff, Bowd can connect law students or recent graduates with firms who are looking for staff to write articles, review documents or type materials. Bowd’s vision is to be part of the graduate employment process and take on graduates as employees who can learn from practising lawyers and gain a broad range of exposure. In pursuing this vision, Bowd will play a part in ‘building… and growing the profession’.