Like all businesses, law firms had to adopt remote working strategies throughout lockdown and into these socially-distanced times, but is this a habit that’s here to stay?
I have friends who are partners of law firms and home working has become the new norm for them. They can even ‘dress for the diary’ whereby they wear office clothes when they have a video meeting and more casual attire when they don’t. This is a million miles away from the stuffy, uptight persona lawyers are often tarnished with!
However there were some law firms that appeared closed during lockdown as our business development team could not get hold of them as their phones just rang unanswered or a voicemail informed them that the office was indeed closed.
In the current economic climate, it is imperative that wherever possible, businesses remain ‘open’ even if their doors are closed. Hopefully, we are not heading towards another strict lockdown like we saw earlier in the year but with COVID-19 cases rising, it’s best to be prepared.
Whatever happens with this second spike in the pandemic, law firms have already seen the benefits of remote working. Some fee earners and staff have addressed their work-life balance as a result of less time and money spent on commuting - an important and positive outcome for a stressful profession.
Firms can also now spread their net further when recruiting as it is no longer imperative candidates should come from the locality. Others who must be home-based due to physical disabilities or personal commitments can also be considered.
Law firms can reduce office costs too. Head of KPMG Law, Nick Roome has been telling Law.com about the future of remote working for the firm, while other firms, such as Slater & Gordon and Dentons, have been downsizing to smaller offices, closing offices or at the very least switching to a paperless, digitally-documented environment to prepare for less reliance on physical workspace.
But none of these positives will come to fruition unless firms have their IT and communications in order. For example, in an industry where client data is so sensitive, working on and saving documents on personal PCs and laptops that are only protected by single passwords is an unacceptable security risk.
Secure video meetings are critical for communicating with clients and colleagues, along with other unified communications tools, such as presence, screen sharing and chat, and a flexible phone system that supports remote working.
Adequate internet bandwidth to support remote access to office-based servers plus access to email and office features, such as those found in Microsoft 365, that can be used on multiple devices is crucial along with enhanced security that protects devices being used at home.
In an article recently published on the Today’s Conveyancer website, the author advised: “Effective communication becomes even more important when you can’t just walk down the hall to talk to someone, so it’s important to have the right tools to enable effective virtual collaboration.”
For firms to survive and thrive, now and into the future, it looks like remote working is here to stay as long as they have the tools to support this. If you need advice on internet connectivity, data centre hosting for remote access to servers, modern phone systems and unified communications functionality, please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.