Technology is an essential part of any modern practicing attorney’s toolkit. In Tad’s Tech Corner, join me as I discuss how to best utilize technology– both from a device and software standpoint– during your daily lawyering tasks and during trial. Discussions, as always, are welcome in the comments section below.
— Tad Thomas
The blurring of work and home has set many law firms off-kilter in 2020. Fortunately, most attorneys have regained their balance and found ways to continue representing clients and working with their peers on a variety of legal matters. The most successful firms have embraced industry-leading technology and worked hard to ensure their team members have what they need to get work done from any location, at any time.
Depending on how working virtually has gone these past few months for your firm, you may be more than ready to get back in the office, or you could be considering ways to work remotely in the future. In an effort to err on the positive side, let’s take a look at the benefits of staying virtual post-pandemic.
The Desire to Stay Remote Post-Pandemic
In May 2020, Loeb Leadership, based in New Jersey, conducted an online survey of 25 law firms. According to the data, nearly seven in every 10 people working in law firms want to continue working remotely, at least a few days a week, once it’s safe to return to the office. At the time the survey was taken, only 37 percent of respondents said they felt comfortable returning to the office within the next 30 days.
While some consultants believe interest in working from home will wane as it becomes safer to go out into public, some firm leaders are considering whether they need as much office space in a post-pandemic world. While lawyers, paralegals, and other office staff miss the socialization aspect of being in the office, the appreciation associated with not having to commute is stronger for some.
Of the law firms surveyed, 92 percent believe their firm has been meeting client needs during the pandemic. As restrictions lift, however, clients will likely expect in-person meetings to resume. If firms continue to work remotely on some basis post-pandemic, they will need to be able to explain to their clients the benefits of doing so.
The Cost-Effectiveness of Telework
If you’re considering staying virtual after pandemic restrictions have eased and an effective vaccine’s been released to the masses, there are a number of cost-efficient benefits to consider. Firstly, there’s the potential for reducing your office space. Not only could this save you monthly expenses in regard to rent, but utilities will be lower. Law firm employees will also save money and spend less time commuting.
In regard to your overhead, a study at a Chinese travel agency found that call center employees who were randomly assigned to work from home for nine months saw a 13 percent performance improvement. They took more calls per minute and took fewer breaks and days off. Similarly, when a sample of workers at a large Italian multi-utility company was assigned to set their own place and time of work one day per week for nine months, they were more productive and took fewer days off than their in-office coworkers. Based on the results of those two studies, it’s possible your law firm could be more productive and provide better legal representation when staying virtual.
Embracing Virtual Tools
In order to properly serve your clients and collaborate with peers during the pandemic, you’ve had to adapt or upgrade new technology and add new tools to your firm’s arsenal. You’re likely holding meetings via video conference platforms and you may have attended a virtual conference or two. Because so many firms are functioning while remote, telecommuting is becoming more and more accepted as the norm.
Whether you continue to work remotely or adopt a hybrid in-office/remote work schedule, you’ll need to continue embracing virtual tools to ensure you’re able to provide your clients with the legal representation they deserve. Even firms that were more conservative and late to the virtual game are now utilizing technology in a different and efficient way.
In addition to those video meetings and conferences, embracing new technology means implementing cloud-based services to protect your data and using virtual employee onboarding. It’s important to remember that you have to be comfortable and proficient in the technology your firm implements in order to serve your clients properly.
Even when considering the benefits of staying virtual in a post-pandemic world, it’s easy to get overwhelmed at the prospect. As an attorney, remember that you do not have to decide everything right now. What may be true today could look completely different weeks or months from now. Part of succeeding during and after the pandemic involves accepting a certain degree of uncertainty and being willing to embrace new concepts and tools.