Is software scalability a survival strategy?

Friday 5th February, 2021

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The pandemic has elevated the importance of scalable legal technology. In March 2020, COVID-19 triggered a sudden and urgent need for our software to flex alongside our businesses and empower us to maintain productivity throughout manpower fluctuations.

Here, Deborah Witkiss at Insight Legal explains why law firms should position scalability at the forefront of their IT agendas for now and evermore.

Changes instigated by coronavirus

The business world has changed beyond recognition in the past year. Our vocabulary has expanded with previously-unfamiliar-now-everyday words such as ‘shielding’, ‘furlough’ and ‘home schooling’. What these words mean, in reality, is reduced workforces.

Both employers and employees are grappling with the challenges posed by additional responsibilities in their personal lives. Despite everyone’s best efforts, trying not to allow these extra duties at home impact our professional lives is nigh on impossible, exacerbated by the fact that our home has become our workplace too.

In the legal sector, however, the show must go on. Cases must progress, court dates must be attended, and deadlines and milestones must be met. Legal cases do not stop because a pandemic is in our midst.

Admittedly, COVID-19 has affected law firms variously. For certain specialisms the workload has lessened whereas others have thrived. An example being conveyancing (in the first lockdown) versus family law (relationship pressures have consistently worsened).

Changes have happened quickly. Overnight in many instances. Going back to the conveyancing illustration, an abrupt halt was enforced by the government last spring with lockdown restrictions dictating deferral of house moves unless specific circumstances applied. Fast forward to the reopening of the property space and temporarily imposed stamp duty holiday, conveyancers’ workloads have gone from famine to feast.

The only constant, then, is change. None of us knows what the future holds. We only know that it will be different. Yet we still need to prepare for it as best we can. This unattainable goal – bracing ourselves for the unknown – brings us to the subject of scalability.


Scalable software and its ability to flex

As intimated in the opening statement, legal technology – that is case management and legal accounting software – should be able to adjust to your changing needs. This may necessitate adding new users to accommodate growth or reducing users to cater for unfortunate loss of personnel through assorted causes including redundancy. Similarly, adding or reducing storage space according to evolving capacity requirements is equally essential.

Another related mandatory feature of your core application is enabling employees to operate whenever (it is not a nine-to-five role anymore), wherever (be it the office, home, court or elsewhere) and however (accessed from multiple devices).

The benefit of using cloud software from a reputable supplier comes into its own. Ultimately, the cloud gives you the processing power now and in the future but you only pay for what you need today. Whatever your capacity stipulations, bandwidth is never compromised.

The other vital element of your cloud system is the organisation supplying it. Long-term, rigid software contracts should be avoided always; even more so in these unprecedented times. Imagine having signed a three-year deal with a software house in February 2020 only to find yourself in financial dire straits just a few weeks later when the world dramatically turned on its axis. Being locked into a contract is not only frustrating, paying for surplus software licences makes any struggling law firm’s financial situation perilous.

The alternative is short-term, flexible contracts with rolling monthly terms so that the number of licences corresponds to the number of staff on your payroll. This direct correlation between licence costs and labour pool impacts profit margins in a positive way. Your positioning at any given point is accurately reflected in your monthly fee so you are ideally placed to ride out the ongoing COVID-19 storm.

As an aside, cloud software is the platform that comes with unlimited storage capabilities, has 24/7 availability, connects home- and office-based workers, and supports desktop and mobile devices.


Scalable software and its ability to strengthen workflow

Again reflecting on the opening statement, legal technology should also contain workflow tools which simplify and automate processes for sustained output even if there is lower input due to pared-down headcount. Picking up on the aforementioned COVID-19 jargon, your staff may be shielding, furloughed or home schooling. Your staff may be ill themselves or tending poorly loved ones. You may have had to lose staff through redundancy in order to stay ‘in the black’. On top of this, you may have experienced natural wastage via resignation and retirement.

Like other industries, law firms depend upon profitability to succeed. If your human resources – that is your employees – are depleted, your revenue should not be too. Scalability means streamlining and automating tasks at certain matter stages for your front office teams to progress more cases without recruiting more lawyers.

The same concept applies to your back office teams. By streamlining and automating actions relating to the day-to-day and letting your software take care of particular aspects of administration, you can scale production with the same (or fewer) support staff.

In this way, scalability permits you to become less dependent on people power.


Integrating scalable legal technology into your daily practice

The major advantage of scalability is your software’s ability to expand or contract as your business undergoes transformation to overcome COVID-19 hurdles. It is also your software’s ability to sustain or increase productivity as your business undergoes necessary personnel adjustments. This scalability is about cloud delivery, short-term contracts, case management workflows and business process automation.

At Insight Legal, you can rely upon us for 30-day rolling term contracts. You can rely upon our software for pre-defined or custom workflow assistance at all stages of a matter from new client intake with automatically populated correspondence templates to accounts ledger management with automatic feeds straight from your bank. You can rely upon its boundless repository for your contact database, case documents and accounting records. You can rely upon its cloud format to log in irrespective of location, device and time of day.

Finally, we conclude with the words of Stephen Luke, director and partner at Instalaw, who affirms Insight’s criticality to his law firm’s growth and success:

“Insight has helped us to make the transition [from office to home] flawlessly. Fee earners can easily manage their caseload – take their laptop home, open it up and use Insight as if they were sat in the office. It allows me to easily add and remove users to the system, increase or restrict permissions and so on. It’s a great company tool… which suits our needs as we develop and grow.”

To read the full Instalaw case study, please go to www.insightlegal.co.uk/community/case-studies/instalaw.

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