Law firms—like all of us—are feeling the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak.
But legal professionals aren’t concerned only for themselves; they’re standing alongside their clients in crisis. With entire industries at risk of grinding to a halt, lawyers are facing an uptick in demand. They can’t afford to close their doors when clients need them, even when the reality is mandating their own difficult business decisions. Baker McKenzie, Faegre Drinker, Quinn Emanuel, and other law firms have temporarily closed their offices. Conferences and events have been canceled due to bans on travel and group assembly.
What are the main challenges firms are facing as they work to avoid an interruption of client services and even ramp up their availability to clients who are experiencing increased short-term needs while simultaneously protecting their employees and encouraging responsible social distancing practices?
Over the next few weeks, experts from the Litera team will be reviewing these challenges and giving advice on how to help your firm adapt to the changing work environment and be ready for the next global crisis.
1. How is the firm empowering employees to work remotely?
During this massive shift in business operations, technology is here to help and has created the possibility of allowing employees to work remotely.
This is more than just sending people home with their computers. Lawyers need to feel empowered to do their jobs just as well as they would in the office. In addition to basic IT equipment, productivity and communication tools are necessary to set them up for success.
Working remotely also means there needs to be a level of self-sufficiency. Technology can be leveraged to reduce the reliance on others, especially while drafting documents, while collaboration platforms are key to enabling multiple people in different locations to work together effectively.
2. How are clients continuing to be served when face-to-face meetings and travel are restricted or eliminated?
Understanding and meeting client demands is always the top priority of the firm, but in times where there is limited in-person access this becomes challenging.
Restrictions on travel or market uncertainties can lead to projects being delayed, postponed, or canceled completely. The coronavirus threat has already derailed countless transactions and business deals. Notably, the $1 billion sale of a San Francisco development has been postponed by at least a month due to delays in the completion of due diligence checks. Warner Music Group and Cole Haan have both suspended their IPOs.
Perhaps your clients are operating on a smaller scale, but they’re likely feeling similar tremors.
Technology offers the option to conduct many tasks remotely – beyond just the ability to collaborate – eliminating the need to physically sign and mail documents, and holding meetings virtually can keep relationships strong and allow projects to move along without any major interruptions.
Not only does this save time and avoid potentially risky travel and meetings, but it also removes some of the burden from delivery pathways that are under unprecedented stress.
3. How does the firm update outdated and manual processes that are ingrained in the culture?
A lot of the day-to-day work done at law firms were built for a bygone era. Many firms have not fully modernized processes which were put in place years, maybe even decades ago. This latest global pandemic is changing the way we live and work. Just as people are learning the importance of proper hand-washing and other basic hygiene practices, lawyers are learning that reliance on paper and manual processes is problematic during severe workplace disruptions.
Firms should capitalize on this as an opportunity to review how things are done and find ways to improve. Reducing internal processes that are manual and paper-driven, or require in-person interaction, helps future–proof the firm, and will have a lasting impact on the productivity and effectiveness of its workforce.
4. What is the business continuity plan and what is technology’s role?
If there is one thing we learned over the past two weeks it’s that you can never be too prepared. Having the right plan and the right technology in place can be a differentiator when the IT department is overloaded with requests. Not only does being prepared have a positive impact on the employees, but also on their clients and families.
Identifying the key vendors that provide crucial services can make all the difference. It simplifies the process of deploying and maintaining software and gives firms one team to work with for account management and support.
Litera is helping firms maintain business continuity even when facing an unknowable future. Our forthcoming series will dive into these challenges and will look at how Litera Desktop and Litera Transact can help provide what law firms need, even when their teams are prevented from traveling, required to work remotely, or otherwise disrupted.