January 20th, 2021
Along with countless other industries, today’s law firms have seen a fundamental impact on how they do business during the COVID-19 pandemic, from how they work to the cases they take on. Early in the pandemic, many law firms found themselves scrambling to accommodate a remote workforce, and they continue facing challenges in doing so, as well as with scaling their resources to take advantage of new opportunities.
COVID-19 has focused a harsh spotlight on the ability of organizations to work remotely, with many law firms struggling to get the right tools and infrastructure into place. As a result, we’ve seen an exponential acceleration in digital collaboration across industries and sectors – what firms may have expected to be doing in 15 years’ time has now been fast-tracked. And it’s likely we’ll continue to see significant advances in the next couple years.
How law firms choose to approach and embrace this new wave of digital collaboration and remote work will have a major impact on their ability to use analytics and data science to gain insights that will improve their practice of law in both the short and long term.
The Pivot to Remote Work
In the spring of 2020, COVID-19 forced most companies to pivot to fully remote work. Assuming the switch was temporary, many invested in little more than quick fixes when it came to ensuring they had the necessary tools to support remote work. Fast-forward to today, and everyone now realizes that remote work was not just a short-term scenario. In fact, several prominent companies have already announced they’ll continue to be fully remote for the foreseeable future.
As workers continue to stay home, temporary remote solutions have quickly become insufficient to sustain the usual high quality of work at most law firms. This shift in perspective to viewing remote work as a long-term scenario that needs to be sustainable has placed an emphasis on what tools will allow for the best collaboration and greatest efficiencies, as well as how law firms can continue to be the most profitable under this new work model.
Now that firms are solidly entrenched in the world of remote work, the question becomes whether they merely want to survive or if they want to turn the asymmetries of remote work into new advantages.
While the right tools are crucial to making remote work effective, firms also need to enact some culture changes to develop different norms around remote work. Modern technology used for working remotely can lead to the expectation that people are always available, causing a constant barrage of interruptions that can actually lead to reduced productivity or employee dissatisfaction. Just as people in offices are able to close doors to avoid interruptions, norms must be put in place that prevent people from expecting perpetual availability and allow for mental downtime to reset.
Until the culture catches up with the tools, features that prevent interruptions and eliminate distractions will be more important than ever for effectively managing remote workdays.
Making Remote Work Possible
Many of the platforms that law firms were already using have seen their limits tested during recent remote work times, with some new applications – particularly video communication platforms like Zoom – being added in heavy rotation. While these tools have been crucial to keeping law firms up and running, firms that want to increase automation and achieve greater levels of autonomy are further expanding their tech arsenals.
The goal is to add tools that accelerate digital collaboration and innovation. Think about the solutions you’re currently using. Are you taking full advantage of their capabilities? An apt analogy is the early days of motion pictures, when movies were nothing more than films of stage plays with no experimentation in the medium to elevate the level of content. It was only later that movies became more dynamic and improved the viewer’s experience. The same is true of your technology – are you just filming your plays, or are you making the most of your tools?
Successful remote work depends on robust communication tools, task automation tools – particularly for routine, time-consuming tasks – that manage workflows and processes and analytical tools that can create valuable business insights. The more creative a task is, the more difficult remote collaboration tends to be, but solutions do exist to solve these problems. As remote work continues to accelerate, more and more offices will start looking to incorporate virtual reality into the workplace, which may also open the doors to augmented reality.
While these remote and collaborative tools can be pricey, they are mostly a one-time investment and typically far less than the cost of office space. The expense may be worth it for the competitive advantage they offer.
By embracing remote work and adopting the right tools, law firms can achieve a competitive advantage that enables them to capitalize on the new opportunities arising from today’s uncertain times.
Today’s post was written by Dave Schwab, the chief product officer at AdvoLogix.
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