Law firms more optimistic for 2022 after difficult year, survey reveals

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Turnover and profits have remained below pre-pandemic levels at most Irish law firms over the past year and most of the top 20 firms have suffered cyber attacks, according to an investigation by the sector.

Almost half, 48%, of businesses continued to receive government support in 2021, up from 70% in 2020, with small businesses under the most pressure.

Despite the challenges, the survey found that most companies, especially the larger ones, are optimistic about the year ahead, with some seeing improvements in the past 12 months.

Recruiting and retaining staff is the key issue for Dublin companies, with many indicating their willingness to make remote working easier in the future, according to the annual survey of law firms conducted for the professional services firm. and Smith & Williamson wealth management by market research firm Amárach.

The drive to make remote working easier appears to be a key issue for employees, the survey suggests.

Cyber ​​risk is considered by 27% to be one of the biggest challenges over the next three years. Most of the top 20 businesses (60%) reported cyber attacks on their systems in 2021, but 62% of small businesses in Dublin and 74% of regional businesses reported no such activity.

The survey was completed by senior company executives and found that two in three companies (63%) expect the outlook for the sector to improve over the next 12 months, with 39% of companies saying their revenues have recovered and have grown over the past year, reaching 53 percent among the top 20 companies.

However, almost half (49 percent) of small businesses in Dublin have experienced lower fees due to competitive pressures.

Maintaining profitability has been a major concern for all businesses, large and small, according to the survey.

Most (58%) of reported profits are still lower than pre-coronavirus levels and 29% have seen a significant reduction in income.

For the top 20 companies, 47 percent have used government support this year, up from 60 percent in 2020. More than one in three regional companies (36 percent) said their staff continued to use government supports. 2021, up from 50 percent. hundred in 2020.

Life outside of work

In terms of tax, 29% of businesses have used tax warehouse and deferral of tax payments this year, up from 43% in 2020.

Recruiting and retaining staff is now the top concern of the 20 largest companies and 70 percent of all businesses in Dublin. More than one in three companies (35%) have increased their workforce in the past 12 months, up from 22% in 2020, but 23% have downsized.

The report says there now appears to be a “mismatch” between how employees and employers view the future workplace, with employees favoring a greater focus on life outside of work.

Most of the top 20 companies said they would make it easier to work remotely in the future, while about one in three regional businesses and one in five small Dublin businesses said they were unlikely to do so. do.

The report identified that employer decisions on remote and hybrid rules are key issues for employees and can lead to potential talent movement.

Half of all companies and 80 percent of the top 20 companies stressed the need to invest more in the well-being of the workforce. This year marked a return to pay increases, with most (80 percent) of the top 20 companies reporting pay increases. The increases exceeded 6 percent in more than half of the companies that raised wages.

Speaking at the launch of the survey, Paul Wyse, general manager of professional services at Smith & Williamson, said it shows “a big change in control from the company to the employee, as employees re-examine their work-life balance and their working methods. While the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit have caused turbulence in earnings throughout the past year, according to the survey, we see a legal sector with a much more positive outlook for 2022. “


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