Thursday 29 April 2021 8:25 am

Keystone Law CEO: 'There's always been a culture of presenteeism in law firms - but that makes less sense now'

AIM-listed Keystone Law has enjoyed a good financial year, with profits and revenue at the firm up, something it attributes to being accidentally pandemic-ready thanks to its flexible approach to work.

Revenue for the year jumped nearly 11 per cent to £55m, while profit before tax rose to £5.4m, some £200,000 more than the previous financial year.

The network-style business operates a self-employed model, and as a result its lawyers tend to choose home working over coming into the office, meaning the firm was already set up for remote working when the pandemic hit.

Read more: Lawyers know best: Is it time law firms left the LLP behind?

Speaking to City A.M., CEO James Knight said the firm had been “relatively lucky” when the pandemic hit and remote working was introduced on a large scale, because Keystone had the technology and the culture already in place.

Across the sector, Knight said there would not be one working ‘standard’ adopted post-pandemic, but that the changes brought about by Covid would not mean mass flexible working.

“Those that have taken on new on shiny new offices will be very reluctant to not make full use of those offices because it’s going to cost them the same,” he said.

“There’s a culture of presenteeism [in law], there has always been previous reluctance to embrace flexible working, but there will certainly not be some degree of change.

“I think possibly the legal profession will realise that the task of providing legal services can easily be done in this way, and they’ll realise that for lawyers, its very quantifiable, they record and bill their time, [so] it’s easy to see if someone is profitable and how profitable they are. It makes presenteeism a bit less common sense; less logical.”

Read more: Did fewer Christmas parties drive an end of year boom at Keystone Law?

Keystone has a London office on Chancery Lane that it plans to keep, despite its commitment to flexibility. The office typically houses administrative staff and has a floor for its lawyers who would rather work in an office.

Lawyers moving to Keystone

Keystone Law has seen an uptick in qualified applicants this year wanting to be part of its network-style law firm, which it put down to a better work-life balance.

The coronavirus pandemic forced lawyers to work from home, some for the first time – something Keystone has been doing for years.

In the year ending 31 January, the challenger law firm saw qualified applicants increase six per cent to 253, while the number of lawyers accepted jumped 25 per cent to 70.

Knight continued: “I am excited about the year ahead, not least because the vast majority of the legal profession has started to suspect something that we have known for 20 years: if the right tools and infrastructure are in place then lawyers, even when undertaking complicated, multi-disciplinary transactions, can deliver a far better service if they are given flexibility and autonomy while enjoying a better work-life balance.”

Read more: Law firm Irwin Mitchell tells staff to work when and where they like

The listed law firm is looking to continue to grow organically by recruiting more lawyers, “the market’s huge and we’re able and ready to take on as many of the right numbers as we can, with no cap on the limit of lawyers,” the CEO added.

Keystone’s share price jumped 1.5 per cent in early morning trading following the publication of its results.

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