Agile working in law firms

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In the immediate aftermath of March’s lockdown, the focus for law firm leaders and their hard-pressed IT departments was remote working. Ensuring that lawyers could work with and collaborate with their clients and support services teams became the main focus.

The accelerated use of online technology has been a common theme across many business sectors. In April, Microsoft said that it had witnessed “two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”

With an element of remote or hybrid working set to be a longer term feature, the attention of law firm operations must now focus on how to harness the use of technology to support agile working that delivers efficiency as well as a happy, collaborative working culture.

“The 2020 pandemic lockdown has shown how quickly digital transformation can happen and has spurred some firms to consider ways in which their operations can (or must) change… to adapt to the ‘new normal’ and beyond,” commented Marcus Graham in a recent law firm report by Smith & Williamson.

NO SHORTAGE OF TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS

According to PwC’s Law Firm Survey data, the general trend in recent years amongst the UK’s top 100 law firms is a steady increase in the percentage of revenue spent on IT.

Some law firms are investing in more disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence and process automation. But according to PwC’s David Maloney, Innovation and Transformation director, only a small number of firms are ‘developing or implementing market-changing technology programs’.

“A handful have a clear and flexible strategy for realising the benefits of innovation, backed up with clear objectives and measurable metrics to monitor success. Both are necessary to maximise the return of partners’ investment, and to ensure firms stay relevant in an age of digital disruption.”

Last year, respondents to PwC’s survey placed ‘improving the use of technology’, ‘standardising and centralising processes’, and ‘support improvements in legal service offering’, as their top three business support priorities. In the current situation, these priorities are more important than ever.

TRUE AGILE WORKING: PEOPLE, PROCESS AND TECHNOLOGY

Technology is part of the solution, but only if applied alongside the right processes and the right people, who know how to use the technology. Start with the end goal and work backwards, with scoping, specification, testing, communication, training, implementation and measurement all factored in from the start.

“As firms grapple with the disruption brought about by Covid-19, they are going to want to make their operations as effective as possible. People, process and technology are all fundamental to giving lawyers the support they need to do their jobs well – whether in an office or working from home,” says Intelligent Office’s Commercial Director Richard Keatinge.

“Law firms are at different stages of digital evolution, and whilst many individual partners and fee earners are very proficient at using the various technologies their firms have invested in, the pandemic has also shown those that were previously resistant to technology, that they too can use these tools effectively. This in turn shines a spotlight on whether they need exactly the same operational support as previously or whether this can be changed to better meet their needs as remote workers.”

Helping law firms design, restructure and then being responsible for the delivery of a new service model is one of Intelligent Office’s core strengths and working with us helps firms resolve the following challenges:

  1. Speed of response: In the new era of the dispersed workforce how do law firms continue to respond to demands from clients with appropriate speed, efficiency and quality? Because support staff are also working remotely, intuitive-to-use technology, intelligent workflows and well trained staff are key to ensuring that the firm’s partners and fee earners can still deliver service excellence to their clients.
  2. Productivity: as the dust settles after the initial crisis, how can technology be deployed to maximise the productivity of all functions within a firm? Nowadays lawyers can often type as fast as their support teams, but just because they can do something, should that be how they spend their time? Time spent on tasks that can’t be recorded or billed to clients is wasted time. Alongside this how does a firm know whether its dispersed support functions are well utilised, working productively and critically, are spending their time on the right tasks?
  3. Streamlining operations: what processes and tasks can be more effectively carried out using technology without costing more or compromising quality? Here, there are many examples. Two of the many ways that Intelligent Office help streamline its services for clients are digitised mailrooms and workflow management tools.

As the Law Society says in its article on digital futures, “The way firms choose to work with digital technology will be a major source of competitive advantage”.

With experience of supporting many of the UK’s top law firms, Intelligent Office understands how effective administrative support services – enabled by technology, innovative workflows and ongoing training – plays a key role in helping law firms to realise the benefits of agile working. To find out more, contact Sam Nicholls, Head of Business Development, on +44 (0)7984 252 150 or at sam.nicholls@intelligentofficeuk.com.