Working from home and flexible working have become hot topics since the UK emerged from the dark days of the pandemic. Prime Minister Boris Johnson thinks we should all just get back to the office. But at Liverpool city region law firm Morecrofts, the change in culture has been transformational. According to finance partner David Parr, flexibility has boosted productivity.
“When people started working from home during the first lockdown it was strange not being able to talk to colleagues face to face,” said David. “But in some ways it eventually brought us closer together as a team.
“Rather than just passing someone in the corridor and saying a quick hello, people started to make more of an effort to make the most out of the Zoom meetings and the telephone calls. We were talking to each other a lot more and everyone felt valued.
“That is really important because we are a full-service firm and we deal with a range of both business clients and personal clients. There tends to be quite a bit of crossover. We might have a business client who then might be moving house, or needing a will writing or, sadly, going through a divorce.
“So different departments talking to each other is really important and these days we do that really well. As a result, our productivity has gone through the roof.”
Morecrofts has been around in Liverpool for more than 200 years, having been founded in 1813. It offers a broad range of legal services for both individuals and businesses across employment, family law, HR, property, litigation and more. It is a go-to firm for many small and medium-sized businesses across the city region.
Last year managing partner Alison Lobb talked about the importance of breaking down barriers for women in the law, particularly in the upper echelons. Since 1990 60% of people coming into the profession have been women. However, just 20% of senior lawyers, or partners are female.
This trend has been well and truly bucked at Morecrofts. Of the 107 people employed at the firm, just 16% are men. And, out of the 11 partners, seven are women.
However, like many businesses at the moment, Morecrofts is also struggling with recruitment with a national skills shortage in the legal profession and in many other business sectors. Over the past year there have been plenty of stories of London law firms hiring people living in the north of England and allowing them to work from home.
David added: “That is definitely something that is happening. We know this from talking to other law firms in the regions. We are also seeing London firms opening offices up here. They are taking advantage of the lower cost base but still charging their clients the higher London rates.
“At Morecrofts we currently have around seven vacancies. Finding the right people at all levels – from paralegal to associate – is a real challenge.
One of Morecrofts’ key strategic strengths is its branch network. Its headquarters is in the Cotton Exchange in Liverpool city centre. It also has offices in Woolton, Allerton, Wirral, Crosby and Prescot.
In April the firm doubled the size of its office space in Prescot town centre, taking an extra 650 sq ft. Now the practice occupies a total of 1,300 sq ft at the premises in Warrington Road. It first opened a Prescot office in 2018.
This latest expansion follows a growth in client work across a range of departments, notably private client, matrimonial and conveyancing. The firm aims to recruit up to six new members of staff at the expanded site following the completion of a £20,000 refurbishment.
David was born and bred in Knowsley so, for him, the expansion of the operation in the borough is a source of pride.
It is a big commitment to Knowsley where it also has strong links with the Chamber of Commerce.
He explained: “These are really exciting times for Prescot, with the impending opening of the Shakespeare North Playhouse and a variety of new independent businesses coming to the fore in the town.
“There are some fantastic opportunities in Knowsley and we have a huge range of businesses of all shapes and sizes across many sectors. It enables us to maintain strong links with our clients in their local communities.
“Although a lot of our work these days comes via our website or the telephone, many clients still value that face-to-face service. It is important to give people that choice.
“Having a local network of offices is also a great resource for our own team. We have some staff based in the city centre office but they actually live close to one of the local offices. It gives them the option of being able to hot desk from different locations. It also means people get to meet and talk to each other.”
Big recent growth areas for the firm include conveyancing, although the property boom is showing signs of cooling, and private client, hence the need to add to the team. David added: “Family law has also been a big area for use over the past year or two.
“Sadly, we have seen a rise in issues around separation and divorce during and following the pandemic. This, of course, also leads to matters around child custody and access, as well as domestic violence. In June we will be hosting our annual Domestic Abuse Conference which will see a number of high profile speakers.”
With costs rising across the board Morecrofts is also stepping up its service to support businesses across the city region. It offers its clients a ‘Business MOT’ to ensure they are up to date with all areas of compliance. It will offer them ratings of red, amber and green.
“Many businesses had a tough time during the pandemic and obviously it was difficult to get out to see them. Now, costs such as energy are rising fast, we want to get out there and give them as much help as we can.
“That is why the expansion of our Knowsley office was so important to me. I am a local lad and I know first-hand some of the challenges that local businesses are facing. Compliance for a small business can be both complicated and expensive. We want to make sure we get out there and really show them what we can do.”