What does the ‘gig economy’ mean for the legal sector?

Over the last few months, the one term that has permeated the employment lexicon more than most is the ‘gig economy’ – a catch-all term used to describe the increased use of external consultants who specialise in certain roles for a portfolio of different clients.

The gig economy is simply huge and growing fast. According to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), citing figures from research group The McKinsey Global Institute, the gig economy is expected to worth £45 billion to the UK economy by 2025. That’s too big a number to ignore.

PwC, in their report, The Future of Work, found that half of all UK employers anticipate that as many as 1 in 5 of their workforce will be employed this way by 2020, with the REC going a step further to suggest this figure could be as high as 1 in 3 by 2021.

Yet despite this, less than one-third of employers – not just within the legal sector but across the board – have a strategy for the rise of the gig and portfolio worker. So what could the implications be of a growing gig economy for the sector?

That was the question we sought to address in an article we wrote for the current issue of The Lawyer Monthly (see page 57).

In it, our managing director, Rhiannon Cambrook-Woods, talked about the likely changes we will see in traditional work patterns. She said that while many law firms currently use temporary workers to plug any immediate gaps they may have, “this is likely to change as workers at both ends of the skills spectrum will increasingly expect to be able to work flexibly.”

Another key challenge facing the sector will be that of maintaining quality. Rhiannon argued: “As more people opt to become ‘gig workers’, firms need to ensure that contracts are allocated to the best person for the job, not the one who offered the cheapest rate.” This leads onto the next key challenge – that of protecting the reputation of the firm.

“Managing a team of permanent and flexible workers will be a challenge, but so too is the ability too ensure continuity of service throughout the customer journey,” said Rhiannon. But the continuity of service extends beyond the client relationship – there is the way in which a firm’s brand is perceived from an employee perspective too.

Indeed, there is the danger that treating gig workers differently or worse than your permanent staff will damage your reputation as an employer of choice, let alone a law firm of choice. This could impact your ability to attract the calibre of contractors you need to ensure that continuity of excellence your firm has gained a reputation for.

The article in The Lawyer Monthly highlights a number of other challenges that law firms can expect to face, but it shines a light on the many positives too. The legal sector remains a highly competitive one and although the nature of the way in which firms procure the talent they need to fill those business-critical roles will change, the sector itself is perfectly suited to ‘gig working’.

You can read the full article in The Lawyer Monthly by following this link.