It should come as no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on our communities, livelihoods, workplaces. Seemingly overnight, law firms had to adapt to a new way of working. One where working remotely is the new norm. Where seeing clients face to face is unfeasible due to local government-mandated restrictions or because of social responsibility.
In many ways, we are more alone than we were just a few short months ago. However, the comradery of fighting this pandemic together has led to the widespread adoption of emerging technologies that help bring us closer together. Law firms have been a key part of this transition, adopting solutions and technologies that help support the continued function of a much-needed service.
Most (if not all) law firms have switched to remote working. This has been a challenge for many firms for several reasons. Firstly, legal work requires a degree of teamwork that can be difficult to sustain remotely. Secondly, for many firms, meeting clients face to face has been the standard practice for many years.
However, video and voice conferencing software has helped bridge this gap and allowed all necessary parties to communicate effectively. Face-to-face meetings with clients have been eliminated unless they are absolutely necessary. Leadership remains a key element of successful teamwork in all industries, and video and voice conferencing technology support these goals. Attorneys can communicate seamlessly with their teams, but rather by hitting a button rather than walking over to their desk.
Live chat has also been significant in keeping everyone connected and communicating effectively. Last year it was reported that the number of law firms using live chat increased by 38% in six months. We can only assume that this figure is even higher for the same period in 2020.
To limit disruption and ensure the client's needs are still met, electronic signature solutions have been rolled out. Clients no longer need to meet their attorneys in person.
Many firms have opted to invest in document management software. For example, the software Action Step allows law firms to effortlessly manage documents, allowing employees to create and search for documentation as needed.
Other legal software related to billing, document management, case management and time management have been instrumental in keeping law offices thriving during the pandemic.
Where office working is essential law firms have implemented solutions to make it safe for everyone involved. Handshaking is strongly discouraged, and hand sanitation stations are available for use. Regular hand washing or sanitizing is encouraged, particularly where touching surfaces like handrails and door handles are unavoidable.
What Does the Future Hold?
Reports indicate that law firms tend to weather downturns better than the rest of the economy. For example, law firms were less severely hit in the 2008-2009 recession. However, this current situation is unprecedented since we haven't seen a global pandemic of this scale for over 100 years. Although there has been a slow down in some aspects of legal work, such as court operations, there's still a very real precedent for litigation. With the use of key emerging technologies, most law firms will be able to weather this storm.