Long-term impact of Covid on Working Parents’ Careers in Law Firms – should we be worried?

2 months ago, our blog ‘Do you know what’s really stressing working parents in law firms?’ focused on our thoughts arising from The Lawyer Working Parents Survey in March, which surveyed 1,200 working parents.  We pinpointed the key stresses that we had noticed in our coaching which were reflected in the survey results.  At a point when most working parents were in survival mode, one survey respondent put it ‘it feels hard to have aspirations over and above survival’.  So now that we’re several months on, what’s on the career trajectory for lawyers?

Part 2 of The Lawyer Working Parents Survey focused on the longer-term impact of the pandemic on careers.  At Parent & Professional, building on these findings, we want to look ahead and help our clients in HR prepare for any potential fallout so we can jointly look at ways to support and protect parents’ and carers’ careers.

Surviving not thriving

A common theme we are hearing, also reflected in the study, is that covering chargeable hours alongside caring responsibilities takes up ‘all the time.’  This means that less time (or no time) is spent on activities which ultimately lead to increased visibility – such as business development, networking, developing others.  If we spend too long in detailed, reaction-mode, it’s hard to get back into working strategically.  Helping parents and carers work on their career management skills is something that has never been more important.

I find it much harder to focus on long term ambitions and anything over and above getting through each day.

Partner promotions
The most striking statistics from the survey were from responses to the question:  Do you have partnership aspirations?

Pre-pandemic, 65% males and 45% females answered ‘yes’

Post-pandemic, 47% males and 20% answered ‘yes’

Such a huge decrease for both male and female career aspirations is a worrying find for the future talent pool. Furthermore, there is a concern that the recent flexibility and time off won’t be factored into promotion decisions.  In fact, only 9% female associates felt confident that their firm has taken their recent care-giving responsibilities into consideration when assessing developmental and promotional decisions.

What people value has now changed

Reasons cited for this change in motivation appear to mainly be around the recognition about what is now most important – what employees value the most.  We are hearing that family time, health and wellbeing and flexibility are now drivers of those looking for new opportunities over and above financial reward.

We also know that the older generation of men at the top of firms with no child care responsibilities are a threat to the future talent pool if their expectations remain unchanged – it’s vital our leaders don’t lose touch with what people need right now from their careers.

I want further balance at the expense of pace of promotion. Looking to move to part time as soon as feasible/financially possible – Male fee-earner

I have enjoyed being without the pressure of time recording/billing/client demands and whereas before I was worried about losing the (substantial) income, I now feel this is less important than my lifestyle.

Do these comments resonate with what you are hearing in your firm?  Should we be worried?  We would love to know what steps you have already taken to allay these concerns.  Many of our clients are law firms so we have tried and tested solutions to most of the above worries and insecurities.  Email helen@pandpcoaching.co.uk to continue this conversation.

This week’s blog is written by co-founder of Parent & Professional, Helen Letchfield.