Several surveys in recent months have looked at the impact of the pandemic on lawyers, but a survey out today examines the effect the pandemic has had on paralegals and other allied professionals in law firms and legal departments, and it finds that the events of the last eight months have taken a major toll.
While paralegals, law clerks and legal administrators are essential to the functioning of law firms and legal departments, many of them report that they have experienced higher workloads, higher degrees of anxiety, reductions in income, and difficulty achieving work-life balance.
Thirty-seven percent of those who responded to the survey say that their mental health had been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Nearly a quarter say they have lost colleagues during the pandemic.
The survey was conducted between June and August by Athennian, the Canada-based developer of a cloud-based, legal entity management platform that is primarily used by paralegals. (I wrote about Athennian in September, when it announced a major Series A investment.)
The survey polled 323 paralegals, law clerks and legal administrators in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, with half the responses coming from the U.S. and 38% from Canada.
Among the key findings:
- 41% report that their workloads have increased during the pandemic.
- 65% of paralegals say that they feel more productive at home than in the office.
- 37% say that their mental health has been negatively impacted by the pandemic.
- A quarter have seen their personal income reduced, while their overall household incomes also dropped.
- Working from home has caused paralegals to struggle to unplug after work, stay motivated, and cope with distractions.
- 28% say that their biggest struggle was communicating and collaborating.
- Lawyer responsiveness to paralegals has remained at the same level as office working.
Good News, Bad News
Adrian Camara, CEO of Athennian, told me that he sees good and bad news in these findings. On the good news side, the survey shows that working from home has not resulted in any reduction in lawyer responsiveness to paralegals, while paralegals have been even more productive than in the office.
As firms consider what their working arrangements should be in a post-pandemic world, these findings support scenarios that continue to include working from home and other remote-working options, he said.
But on the bad news side, the survey shows that paralegals have experienced negative effects from the pandemic.
“We found that, in general, paralegals are experiencing significant pressures, including increasing workloads and anxiety around Covid-19, all of which have had an impact on mental health,” Camara said. “They are experiencing family health issues, the loss of colleagues, lost income, and isolation.”
What this means, Camara said, is that law firms and legal departments should make it a priority to provide the right tools, systems and resources to support paralegals, including cloud technology to support remote working and communication and collaboration tools to minimize isolation.
“The message to employers is loud and clear,” he said. “It’s time to take notice of employee health, both physical and mental. If the well-being of your employees is not supported, there is likely to be a real business impact on client relationships, talent retention, and the ability of legal teams to work effectively.”
Full survey results are available from Athennian’s website.