As law firms settle into the rhythm of hybrid working, Pat Fox, Operations Director at IO looks at the impact that changing patterns of work are likely to have on their print, reprographics and mail services
Despite high-profile interventions from the likes of Lord Sugar and Jacob Rees-Mogg, it looks as though hybrid working is here to stay. According to the Office for National Statistics, more than a third of the UK’s office-based workforce is still working from home, including many of the UK’s lawyers.
One of the implications of hybrid working is that law firms can no longer rely on staff being able to receive or distribute hard copy paper documents on a timely basis. To meet the fast-paced demands of modern legal work, digital transmission of documents is now critical.
Law firm leadership teams are busy working out how best to provide employees with the flexibility they want while managing office space and other support costs. Settling on the appropriate amount of space and how to configure that space is a challenge. Some have already reduced their office space and others are set to follow.
41.8% of respondents to Smith & Williamson’s 27th Annual Law Firm Survey said that their firm will cut office space over the next two years. 11.5% have already done so since the Covid-19 outbreak and 15.2% would have cut space if they weren’t tied into longer term leases. This is something we are helping law firms to think through, with key considerations including:
- Digitising core support services, including mailrooms, desk and room booking apps, and concierge
- Planning for a reduction in square footage and office costs, using our experience in efficient office and support service delivery and the migration of onsite to offsite service centres and home working
- Reviewing workplace practices, standard operating procedures, health, safety, and workplace wellbeing protocols, and policies to ensure they are fit for purpose in the hybrid world
In parts of the legal sector, digitising the document lifecycle and ‘paperlite’ ways of working meant that this transformation had already begun; something Intelligent Office has worked on with many of our clients. Now, hybrid working provides law firms with an opportunity to change the way they support their people and respond to client and internal pressure to operate more sustainably.
As the leading provider of support solutions for many of the UK’s top law firms, we have identified three themes in relation to print, reprographics and mail services, an important but sometimes overlooked part of law firm operations.
DIGITAL VERSUS HARD COPY
Technology enables the automation of post – scanning to the cloud with a link generated automatically, which drives the recipient to decide whether to request the hard copy, archive or destroy it. However, many firms have yet to decide on an approach to dealing with hard copies, for example whether to store or destroy them. Law firms need to have a clear policy and adopt a process that will enable them to maintain the advantages of digital working without holding on to unnecessary paper.
As law firms look to reduce their real estate overheads, paying premium rents for locating support functions like in-house print and mail services is going to become increasingly hard to justify, especially to cost-conscious clients. As investment banks have discovered, digitised mail and bulk printing services can be delivered equally well offsite. As long as fee earners receive their post and print when they need it, and potential risks are managed, there is no need for it to be processed within a law firm’s office.
Law firms are some of the biggest users of archive and storage facilities, which comes at a significant cost. In many cases, only a small percentage of the records stored are ever recalled. As print and mail volumes drop, we will have capacity to help firms digitise their documents and reduce the amount of storage space required, saving them immediate and ongoing expense.
With extensive experience in supporting UK firms to create better, faster, more secure digital workplaces, Intelligent Office’s admin outsourcing and general office teams devise, embed and manage the workflows and technology required for the provision of reprographics, mail and records management services.
We are bringing all this experience to our new Legal Operations and Facilities Forum. With operations experts from Hogan Lovells, DLA Piper, Linklaters, and Gowling WLG on the advisory board, it’s a forum for fresh thinking and sharing ideas about how, where, and when legal work is done, and the facilities and support needed to make this change happen.
Join us at our launch event on 12th July at Kingsley Napley’s London office, where you can hear from the KKS Savills workplace design team, our own Chris Bull – author of The Agile Law Firm – and law firm leaders. Click here to sign up.
To find out more, contact Jo Styles – firstname.lastname@example.org or on +44 (0) 7753 497 940.