The legal sector has been moving towards digitisation for decades – some firms faster than others – but the global pandemic and several national lockdowns have resulted in many accelerating their plans to accommodate a blend of home and office working: the hybrid-working model.
Like millions of other businesses, the success of legal practices in managing client work away from the office has been largely dependent upon their IT infrastructure and ability to facilitate home working – certainly in the early days of lockdown. Nevertheless, many have realised the benefits of homeworking; a survey by Talk Talk found that 58% of UK workers said they had been more productive because of working from home.
Many office-based employees have responded positively to the hybrid working model and lawyers are no exception. A recent survey among legal professionals found that 77% of senior lawyers wanted to retain elements of remote working, while 22% said they were likely to leave if they couldn’t change their current working patterns to hybrid-working.
The message is clear: lawyers want to maintain this level of flexibility for a better work-life balance, which means hybrid-working solutions need to be part of a law firm’s strategy. While many firms are already adopting such models, a reluctance to do so creates a culture that no longer meets the needs of the modern employee.
The right infrastructure
For a hybrid approach to succeed, firms need to implement technology and software solutions that will enable their practice to run successfully no matter where they are. Implementing the technology alone will not provide you with the foundation you need for a successful hybrid workforce and instead, law firms should focus on three areas: training for change; communication; and security.
Training and change management
For any technology solution to be successful, users need to feel confident in how to use it. Employees must have the right training and skills in place not only to use the basics, but to utilise fully the software available to them. Most importantly, employees need to know where they can turn when things aren’t working to avoid productivity dips, negative effects on the clients and unnecessary frustration.
Communication internally, and externally with clients and third parties, can be challenging when done virtually. It’s important that employees feel part of the firm collective, even when working from home – and this is especially important for new or junior lawyers in the team. Similarly, without the physical location of your office to rely on for client interactions, there needs to be digital communication and collaboration tools, which make attracting new clients and building lasting relationships even easier and more effective than face-to-face interaction. Implementing the right software solutions will enable firms to offer digital platforms and portals that provide quick and cost-effective services, from initial client enquiry and instruction, through validation and compliance checks, to the provision of legal services.
Relying on the physical in a hybrid-working world is no longer possible. Client files, IT hardware and communication tools need to be rethought and adapted for optimal performance and security. When looking to implement a new IT strategy it is important to consider data and cyber security and compliance rules to ensure staff and client data is secure.
The future workplace
Legal practices looking to remain competitive in 2021 and beyond need to consider the effectiveness of their IT and software solutions. Seek out practice and case management software systems that provide you with the flexibility and digital tools you need to manage client matters from anywhere, at any time, and which remove your reliance on physical files and office space. Consider whether your system allows for seamless integration with accepted gold standard cloud focused software solutions, such as Microsoft 365 and DocuSign, to underline your firm’s hybrid working strategy.
Craig Matthews is CEO of Osprey Approach, which provides cloud-based, case management software to high-street and multi-branch law firms. With over 30 years’ experience in the legal software sector, our system, implementation, and support services are designed to help make running a law firm easier. www.ospreyapproach.com