Two thirds of Irish law firms say turnover still below pre-pandemic levels

Survey also highlights disconnect between how employees and employers see workplace

Paul Wyse, Smith & Williamson’s Managing Director

Two thirds of law firms say turnover and profits remain below pre-pandemic levels, according to a survey commissioned by professional services and wealth management firm Smith and Williamson.

The group's 10th annual survey of law firms in Ireland indicates that just under half (48 per cent)continued to avail of Government supports during 2021, down from 70 per cent in 2020.

For the top 20 law firms, 47 per cent were using Government supports this year - down from 60 per cent last year - while one in three regional law firms said that staff members were on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment in the last year, down from 50 per cent in 2020.

The research indicated that the recruitment and retention of staff has now become the key concern for all top 20 firms in Ireland, and 70 per cent per cent of all firms in Dublin. The survey found that one in three firms increased staff numbers over the last twelve months, whereas 23 per cent reduced staff numbers.


The survey also highlighted what it said was a disconnect between how employees and employers see the workplace in the future, with employees reprioritising their own work/life balance in favour of a greater focus on life outside of work.

The “new normal” working arrangements are a key issue with most firms becoming more flexible, it said.

There has been a continued low level of mergers and acquisitions, with only one in five firms stating that they initiated an approach to other firms with a view to a merger or acquisition in the last 12 months.

Cyber risk is now viewed as one of the biggest challenges facing firms over the next three years, as reported by 27 per cent of all firms - a significant increase from last year when it was just 7 per cent.

Paul Wyse, managing director of Smith & Williamson, said: "The 10th Annual Law Survey highlights the key experiences and trends in the law sector this year."

“In terms of talent management, we are seeing a great shift in control from company to employee, as employees re-examine their work life balance and their working arrangements,” he said.

“ This transition to remote work has also seen an impact on cybersecurity and management of risk,” he added.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times