These are definitely unprecedented and strange times that we are living through and however we come out, we won’t be the same, Our lives have changed for good and so has our business environment. Economies are taking a big hit worldwide and this whole situation shows that adaptability and diversification are of utmost importance in modern business.
The business of law is no exception to this wave of change and it is fair to say that it is among the professions that was not prepared to respond to such a change. The whole ecosystem in legal -lawyers, law firms, courts, government- consists of components that are rigid and difficult to adapt and change to new needs. This crisis has taught us a lot about the way we should be operating, hence I state below the 5 most essential steps a law firm should take after this s***storm passes.
The times where machines were a way to get people to work are over. Nowadays technology offers various ways so you can carry out all your day to day functions without the need of being physically present at work. Accounting Big 4 firms have been implementing these policies for many years now, why can’t law firms follow this model as well? You are already using email -hopefully not fax- for communicating with clients and colleagues. For the second part, start using modern chat platforms to eliminate clutter in your inbox. It’s more direct, more engaging and more secure. VOIP phones can help you work with your number from anywhere you are so even if you are working from home having a good VOIP system will help you keep your number and receive calls which otherwise you would have missed if you weren’t physically at your office.
Scan all your documents! This is not 1990! Scan your documents and implement a document management system where you can safekeep everything and grant the right permissions to each employee. Implement VPN connections to connect to your office and maybe access files that are stored at your on-premise servers.
The list goes on and on…I might need to write a separate article, just for going virtual!
2. Train Employees
While technology is the enabler for this kind of new work, employees are always the key during this transition. Your best employees might not have the technology literacy to cope with these changes. While their knowledge and experience is important, you cannot let them fall off the train of change.
Implement in-house trainings to showcase how new technology is being used in your law firm and get your workforce prepared when the crisis hits. Employees always follow their leadership and change has to come from top management. Partners and top Associates must showcase their devotion to new technology and its implementation, in order for the whole workforce to embrace this change and participate in the use of new tools and systems.
3. Invest in digital infrastructure security
It’s always nice to talk about all the benefits technology brings to the table and all the advantages your law firm will have when implementing new policies based on technology. Don’t be fooled though. Technology also carries many risks that need to be addressed. One of the main threats is Cyber security and law firms in particular need to heavily invest in tackling the challenges it poses.
Antivirus software should be installed in PCs and strict policy measures must be taken for accessing files. Hardware firewalls to control your internal network can be put in place and manage all your traffic in and out of the network. Even artificial intelligence can help here with state-of-the-art technologies which monitor users behaviour and trigger alerts when anomalies present themselves. Overall be ready to allocate a great part of your IT budget in security related services.
4. Start enhancing your online presence
It is high time law firms understood that major business challenges can be solved with enhancing their online presence. And by “online presence” of course I do not mean having a website with your services listed and your beautiful team’s photos on display. This is the norm. In order to succeed as a law firm of the future is by pushing the boundaries further than the norm. Try to use your online presence to attract new clients. Leverage chat bots and other platforms, thousands exist out there, in order to attract digital leads and convert them to get to contact you through your digital channels, social and other. This will expand your current clientele which can help keep you going in difficult times like these.
Enhancing your online presence can also help you in the financial aspect of the business where collection is one of the most challenging tasks for law firms today. Implement online payments and integrate them with your billing system so your clients can pay you without having to come to your firm hence increasing your cash flow ability and promoting a work from home culture.
5. Lobby the public sector to embrace digital policies
All the above will not be complete if the whole ecosystem does not respond to the changes as well. History has taught us that the most important player of the ecosystem, the public sector, will always be the one lagging behind changes. Many law firms have the ability to lobby and push the public sector for changes when they need to. It is time for law firms to start lobbying for more drastic changes in the digital aspect of the job like digital courts, online delivery of certificates, digital signatures and more. I understand it is a lot to ask, but why do two legal professionals need to lose their entire productive morning, just to wait in the court cafeteria to meet with a judge and reschedule a case for hearing in two months, when this whole thing can be completed virtually. Apart from being more efficient it will also be more secure. It can be recorded and accessed anytime while at the same time it will give the environment a break, by saving a lot of paperwork.
None of the above is out of this world. Many nations around the world are implementing drastic changes in their legal systems to cope with the digital challenges this era brings. Everyone who is part of this ecosystem must play their role in making it more efficient through the use of technology hence creating a more secure, enjoyable and efficient work environment.