Freedom Day has been and gone, with UK companies now encouraged by the government to ‘start planning a safe return to the workplace’ as of July 19th. This is partly to assist retail businesses in city centres who rely on the footfall of office workers. However, not everyone wants to go back to the pre-pandemic workplace; in fact, a BBC survey of the UK’s 50 largest businesses found that 43 of them plan to embrace hybrid working which incorporates remote working for two to three days of the week.
How is the legal industry responding to the lifting of regulations? Will lawyers still be using Teams and Zoom from makeshift home offices, or returning en masse to the workplace?
The impact of the pandemic on law firms
In recent years, many law firms have been steadily moving away from being paper-heavy environments laden with stacks of case files, towards becoming more efficient through the use of digital technology. But it’s fair to say that the pandemic certainly took UK firms by surprise and forced employers and employees to get to grips quickly with technology that they were not previously familiar with.
From glitchy video conferencing calls to constant direct messages, it may be surprising that remote workers adapted quite so quickly to the new normal. As an example, law firm Cripps Pemberton Greenish conducted an employee survey in the autumn of 2020 and found that only 10% were willing to return to their office full time.
Keeping employees happy
Even though some employees may not have had access to dedicated office space, and may have also been handling the juggle of homeschooling for several months of the pandemic, the flexibility of working from home has appealed to many legal professionals. A Lenovo study of 8,000 employees found that 70% were happier in their roles since switching to remote working. Most importantly though, 48% of workers feel that they have been more productive in a remote working role, according to a Qualtrics study from the XM Institute entitled “The Future of Work in 2021: Perspectives on the New Normal”.
In terms of employee retention, the same study highlighted that 47% of employees would be attracted by a long-term work-from-home policy, which would consider them to stay at the company longer. 72% revealed the importance of being able to live wherever they wanted, without being located near to the office.
Barriers to flexible remote working
Not everyone in the legal industry is supportive of a long-term switch to a remote or even a hybrid working model. Morgan Stanley’s Chief Legal Officer, Eric Grossman, wrote to law firms recently asking them to commit to a ‘largely back to the office’ model on the grounds that Zoom would not be acceptable or commonplace for ‘critical’ meetings. Additionally, Grossman backs the notion that law firm apprentices need to work together physically to pick up the bank of knowledge and experience accumulated by fellow team members.
He’s not alone, with 46% of senior lawyers in a Global Legal Post survey concerned that the productivity of their associates had deteriorated during lockdown.
Technology breaks down barriers for law firms
Many of the great challenges for law firms to overcome in a hybrid or remote working model can also be solved by technology. 2021 is a pivotal year for tech investment and could be the difference between the survival and success of your law firm.
Data protection – new policies must be created to protect remote workers and the devices they work on. The risk of ransomware attacks means that cybersecurity must be a top priority for law firms to keep confidential data safe and ensure the long-term reputation of your business.
Slow internet – employees with unstable connections can benefit from devices integrated with 5G or LTE.
Faster IT support – outsourced tech staff can support your remote workers 24/7, anticipating and fixing problems before your team is even aware of them.
Collaboration tools – keep your team connected and productive by utilising some of the best solutions in the market. There are a lot of choices available so it’s important to choose the right software that enhances your business operations rather than distracting from them.
Cloud services – instead of relying on legacy systems, your law firm can benefit by migrating to the cloud. Your legal professionals will be able to access shared files from the courtroom, the office, or the home office 24/7. You can also be confident that your critical data will be backed up too to support your disaster recovery policy.
CTS are experts in providing technical solutions for the legal sector. Our team is ready to support your move to hybrid working, remote working, or a downsized office environment. To progress your law firm in a post-pandemic world, contact us today and we can help your business reach its full potential.