Welcome to the new normal. As the world reels from the challenges of slowing the transmission of COVID-19, law firms across the globe are faced with the need for staff to connect virtually—and continue meeting the needs of clients—all while addressing a new set of legal issues tied to the virus.
Every law firm is likely to feel the strain to one degree or another, but some law firms are unquestionably better equipped for the current reality. While many litigation and court hearings are postponed, and some virtual hearings are proceeding—the typical day-to-day aspects of matter management and legal workflows have become a challenge for firms unprepared for a workforce completely separated by distance and distraction.
When businesses and people are thrust apart, the natural lines of communication may initially suffer. With normal office life, communication can be somewhat informal. Spontaneous conversations can take place passing a colleague in a corridor—while others will be more rigid in time management and prefer setting a meeting or sending an email. In an office setting, proximity and visibility promotes a more obvious tolerance for different working styles among individuals. Scatter your workforce, however, and unofficial norms may be put to the test.
Despite all our modern connectivity and technology, there is the perception that there’s still a lot of value in those little daily conversations between co-workers. In certain circumstances, the conversation was the process. This is one of the key reasons why the value of shared workflows is becoming crystal clear. In the shadow of a quarantine, remote collaboration tools are really proving to be trustworthy and viable way for lawyers and staff to work and serve their clients.
When working remote, processes matter more than ever
Your law firm may already be feeling it. Even a few days of total social distancing can cause relatively straightforward business processes to slow down. Complex legal matters for high-value, high-touch clients? That may require extra time to help them adjust too.
There is now an urgent need among law firms of all sizes to actively manage projects and processes among remote employees. With so much time apart, it’s important to capture and share the vitals of the workplace, ensuring that important tasks and responsibilities don’t fall through the cracks.
A recent Thomson Reuters survey of global law firm technology revealed that nearly 60 percent of responding firms employed at least one project manager. But only 39 percent felt that project management technology was very or extremely valuable for the firm. The latter number has likely increased due to the current circumstances.
Take for example a single legal matter. Law firms without a standardised workflow and cloud-based project management system may suddenly find themselves unable to answer even the five W’s of journalism:
- What matters are being worked?
- Who is working on them?
- When was the last task executed?
- Where are the documents relevant to the matter?
- Why were certain actions taken?
Knowing these facts and being able to easily access them from anywhere is just one of the benefits of modern legal project management tools. The ability to keep watch over the work of the firm will help you make the right decisions when the time comes to delegate tasks, re-prioritise initiatives and support the needs of clients in these uncertain times.
Infrastructure with you anywhere
Another advantage among cloud-enabled law firms is the portability of essential firm tools. It’s counterintuitive, but by moving your data and infrastructure off-site—you actually make it easier for your staff to come into the office—virtually speaking, of course.
For example, remote access to critical files and professional-grade collaboration tools allow teams of employees to work together, literally. There are plenty of tools enabling teams to communicate, but the ability to truly collaborate on a shared document or project can be a bit more elusive.
From a technical support and maintenance perspective, digital deployment also aids a firm’s non-lawyer staff. With the ability to deliver over-the-air software updates, law firm IT departments can roll out the latest features and security updates without the need for a local presence—something that is already commonplace among most consumer electronics.
Think about the big picture of your law firm
The past few weeks have brought change after change. These changes are creating uncertainty among families, employees, clients, and the public. In the face of these changes, people and businesses need to control what they can.
So, take a moment and consider your firm. Given the technology at your disposal and the relative needs of your business and clients, make an honest assessment of what you can do now to create a measure of control.
Now probably isn’t the perfect time to swap out everyone’s technology or processes, but if your firm has access to cloud-based tools—make sure your people know how and why to use them.
Your team can adjust to the new normal. Take advantage of the connectivity modern legal technology provides, and you will be better positioned to serve your clients with certainty and quality. They need you, even beyond the office.