Traditionally, the legal sector has been somewhat risk-averse in its attitude towards remote working. And for an industry with so many regulations, it’s understandable. The culture that comes with working in the legal sector doesn’t always lend itself well to working from home.
Firstly, there’s the issue of data sensitivity, then cyber security procedures need to be considered and client-lawyer confidentiality still needs to be honoured.
Nevertheless, law firms are making it work amid our current global crisis. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, companies in almost every industry are now legally required to work remotely.
Law firms have had to think laterally and implement remote working policies to ensure the continuity of their business, their client relationships and their productivity. In most cases, this has only been possible thanks to the variety of technologies that we have access to today.
As the legal sector continues to embrace remote working, what impact will this new practice have on law firms in the long-term?
Over the last few weeks, it’s become apparent just how much law firms rely on technology to sustain their business. In order to operate remotely, they need to be in full control of management matters and have access to key information outside of the office. Lawyers need to be able to collaborate in real-time and stay up to date with their clients and colleagues.
Whereas project management tools like Trello and video conferencing software like Zoom are helping to sustain business operations for now, in the long-term, we might expect to see more law firms embracing dedicated legal tech.
Software like WiseTime autonomously documents what activities lawyers spend their time on throughout the day and tags their case references for billing. And software company Everlaw, enables lawyers to work collaboratively to build arguments for litigation cases.
Similarly, HighQ provides legal services with secure project and client collaboration, helping to drive digital transformation in the industry. Case management software Patricia by Patrix, with its extended DMS module helps law firms improve their over-all case management process with a versatile suite of document related tools that’s tailored to a remote workplace.
According to the Financial Times, millennial lawyers in particular, are seeking more flexibility in their work. They value a good work-life balance over salary and career progression.
Remote working provides employees with the flexibility to choose working hours that suits their lifestyle. For example, lawyers with children are able to plan their working day around childcare, all the while, being able to spend more quality time with their family.
Workplace flexibility also reduces stress levels. According to research conducted by FlexJobs, 87% of professionals say that a flexible job would reduce their stress. What’s more, 97% say that a job with flexibility would have a positive impact on their overall quality of life.
According to the 2019 IWG Global Workplace Survey, 85% of employers confirm that productivity has increased in their business as a result of greater flexibility. By adopting long-term remote working practices, law firms can boost their productivity and in turn, increase their profits.
There are a number of case studies out there that demonstrate how remote working is helping to increase profits in other sectors. For example, Dell’s remote working policy is said to save the company $12 million per year in office space.
And the same principles can be applied to law firms. Remote working reduces the need for desk space, which, in turn, can save companies money. For example, London-based law firm Ince & Co increased their annual turnover by 16.1% by introducing flexible working alongside agile working practices.
According to remote.co, companies that embrace remote working have a higher percentage of women in leadership roles than those that don’t. Its research found that 28% of remote companies had either women CEOs, founders, or presidents, compared to 5.2% of traditional companies.
And research conducted by the Harvard Business Review concludes that companies with higher-than-average diversity have 19% higher innovation revenues.
Developing an inclusive culture not only helps law firms meet their legal and regulatory duties, it can help attract top legal talent. Jobseekers are more likely to apply for roles with companies that have a reputation for encouraging a positive culture.
IWG’s 2019 Workplace Survey reports that 80% of professionals say that they would turn down an employer that didn’t offer flexible working. In the near-future, law firms with remote working policies will be viewed as more desirable by job candidates than those without.
Remote working inherently increases the geographic reach for hiring. Instead of being restricted to a 20-mile radius of their office, law firms will be able access talent from around the globe. In turn, this will ensure they get the right lawyer for their firm, not the most convenient.
Likewise, law firms with workplace flexibility are more likely to retain their staff. When employees feel valued, they’re more likely to be loyal to a company. As such, the firm benefits from their experience and investment in training as they progress up the legal career ladder.
As a sector that has traditionally been hesitant to embrace remote working, the coronavirus crisis has forced law firms to embrace home working whole-heartedly. With today’s technology, there’s no reason that law firms can’t continue to offer their staff the option of working remotely in the future. Some firms, such as Fleuchaus & Gallo, did so before the crisis and will continue to do so after it. And when flexible working is proven to increase employee wellbeing, company productivity and turnover, why wouldn’t they?