Law firms – like the rest of the world – are feeling the fallout of the coronavirus outbreak.
But unlike the rest of the world, lawyers aren’t concerned just for themselves; they are representing and standing with their clients in crisis. Entire industries are susceptible to a total freeze-over, but certain lawyers are facing a spike in demand.
Fee-earners will not be closing the doors – not at this time, when their clients need them the most. Whilst several firms like Baker McKenzie, Faegre Drinker & Quinn Emanuel have been forced to close their doors physically, and almost all conferences and events have been cancelled due to travel bans and bans on group assembly, the legal industry continues to push forward.
However, the novelty of this situation means that this is not without challenges. So, what are the main challenges firms face as they work to avoid interruption of services, ramping up in some areas, while simultaneously protecting their employees and following responsible social distancing practices.
- How is the firm supporting remote work?
Business operations have had to undergo a huge shift, with technology providing the lifeline firms need and allowing employees to work remotely.
More than just handing out laptops to use at home – lawyers need to feel empowered to do the exact same job that they could do in the office. In addition to basic IT equipment, productivity and communication tools are important for success.
Remote work also comes with a level of self-sufficiency. The right technology can be leveraged to reduce reliance on others, especially while drafting documents, and allow employees to work collaboratively and effectively from different locations.
- How do you provide an equal service to clients with no face-to-face meetings?
Fully understanding and meeting client demands is the top priority of a firm. This, clearly, can become challenging in times where in-person access is limited.
Restrictions on travel or market uncertainties can lead to delays in projects or them being cancelled completely. Already, the coronavirus threat has derailed countless transactions and business deals. The $1 billion sale of a San Franscisco development, for example, has been postponed by at least one month due to delays in completing due diligence checks. Also, both Warner Music Group and Cole Haan have suspended their IPOs.
Technology offers the option to conduct many tasks remotely – eliminating the need to physically sign and mail document, and hosting meetings online can help keep relationships strong and allow projects to continue uninterrupted. Ensuring that the firm has the right technology in place to facilitate this is vital for the continuation of relationships with their clients.
- How does the firm update redundant manual processes that are culturally engrained?
Much of the day-to-day work done at law firms were built for a bygone era. Many firms have not fully modernised processes which were established years or even decades ago. This pandemic is currently changing the way we work and the way we live. Lawyers are learning that reliance on paper and manual processes does not allow for agility during workplace disruptions.
This is a fantastic opportunity for firms to do some spring cleaning of their processes; looking into how things are done, why they are done like that, and if they can be improved to increase efficiency. Reducing these manual and paper driven processes help to prepare the firm for whatever comes.
- What is the business continuity plan and what role will technology play?
We now know, you can never be too prepared. Having a solid plan and the right technology can be a genuine differentiator when the IT department has their head underwater with requests. Identifying the key vendors that provide crucial services can make all the difference. If it wasn’t part of the plan before, all law firms should now plan for the long-term technology-wise and ensure that their vendor has them covered. It may be their main lifeline.