Over the course of 2020 we have seen seismic shifts in not only legal, but all industries. What we've heard from working with many AM100 and 200 law firms, and from attending and sponsoring virtual legal conferences this year is that one of the most important items law firms need with their technology is flexibility. The legal field must have both high-tech tools to run their firms and be flexible in how they do things! Remember, just because you have always done things a certain way does not mean you should or must continue to.
Law firms are increasingly leaning towards more agile workplaces with a focus on flexibility, functionality, collaboration, and interaction. We have learned all of these can be done differently depending on what your "office" looks like. Many have learned how to navigate collaboration virtually and are doing it quite well.
What technological advancements would typically happen in 3-4 years at law firms, quickly happened within a few months and will continue to rise. Firms are more than likely never going to go back to the way they were before and all research, surveys, studies have shown that an increase in technology investments is one way firms are reallocating budgets they previously used for other items. This will help to benefit firms' profitability, clients and, lawyers if they choose to make the right investments.
It's not necessarily that legal needs more technology or more high-tech technology, but there are many flexibility factors that go into that transition. Some examples: office space and how its used and designed, roles within the firm, technology that makes the office high-tech but also allows a seamless transition from home to office work, internal programs like professional development and training. Technology is one underlying item that effects all aspects of the holistic view of a more flexible firm!
A huge opportunity for law firms is that many partners have been shocked with their ability to utilize the legal technology that has been available for years. Some of those tools don't even come close to being brand new or "innovative", but the fact that they are now using it gives firms a big leap to technology adoption to help their firm become more technologically advanced in the future. The slower and older ways of doing things are much more obvious after forced to a remote workforce.
These shifts can add in more personalization than ever before and increased relationships between lawyers and clients. In previous years reaching out may have been an invite to an event and a phone call, but now that those events have been canceled and video conference calls are on the rise. More individual conversations are happening and relationships are growing. This wouldn't be the case if it wasn't for legal technology and legal flexibility. People are having more interpersonal connections because its something that we can all use more of in the current climate. Part of the flexibility the industry is going through is technology, but the other key is communication and human relationships.
What it comes down to is that law firms and workplaces will need to be designed with basic human needs in mind. Offices, whether virtual or in a building, will need to be adaptable enough to accommodate future changes in both the business landscape and what's going on in the world. As law firms look to reassess their objectives and outlook, their new workplace will adjust accordingly.
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