Canadian Lawyer

September 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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4 UPFRONT NEWS ANALYSIS LAW FIRMS across Canada planning a gradual return to offices are not only navi- gating evolving infection numbers and safety protocols but must also deal with another challenge: a shortage of lawyers. In-demand associates with experience are looking for flexibility and quality training, and they often have the leverage to challenge assumptions of how offices should work, regardless of what the senior partners want. But this does not mean that young lawyers are clamouring to work entirely remotely. "I have heard from people who have had their first year as an associate or their articling year at home [and], it's been really tough," says Meaghan Loughry, a recruitment associate at The Counsel Network. "They don't feel like they got the same experience that their peers have had. And they don't feel like they forged the same relationships." Loughry says that she has seen a massive demand for corporate transactional, M&A and securities expertise since the beginning of 2021, and demand for litigators has also seen an uptick. US firms have been plucking Canadian lawyers with "astronomical" signing bonuses, creating upward momentum for associates to move from mid-market to large national firms. Loughry's observations are evident in the numbers. In the United States, the large law firm market saw a substantial recovery in the second quarter from the economic impact of the last year, Thomson Reuters recently reported. Demand for law firm services for the quarter was higher than pre-pandemic levels. Canada sees similar trends. And expectations for flexibility have ballooned in both Canada and the US for all lawyers. According to a recent global survey of 2,000 lawyers also conducted by Thomson Reuters, including 473 in Canada, lawyers in this country would prefer to work two days a week at home on average. Before the pandemic, those surveyed preferred to spend 0.6 days a week working remotely. Canadian Lawyer surveyed several Canadian law firms about their return- to-work policies, and few had developed an approach in great detail. However, a consistent response was that they preferred the flexible hybrid model. "No one wants to face time requirement," says Loughry. Meritas, a global law firm network including several Canadian firms, recently surveyed its members about which changes caused by the pandemic are likely to stick around for the long term. Over 52 per cent of firms expect to operate with a hybrid model, combining remote and in-office work, at least for the foreseeable future. Some expect this to be a temporary solution, but more expect to stay hybrid long-term. Meritas President Sona Pancholy says although the pandemic forced firms to adapt initially, "they then were rather quickly able to find the tools and the resources — both technology [and] human capital — [and] an understanding of how to be efficient and effective in a remote environment." Luca Citton is chair of the Meritas Canadian management committee and president of Boughton Law in Vancouver. He says although young lawyers were always comfortable collaborating remotely, it "would have other- "[It] would have otherwise been unacceptable to more senior lawyers that their assistant is not in the office. Now, all of a sudden, they're willing to do it." Luca Citton, Boughton Law Flexibility lures young lawyers With a highly competitive market for legal talent, firms are using the return to the office as an opportunity to say they have changed, writes Tim Wilbur

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