Remote working has become a universal way of operating a legal business during the pandemic. The office has been replaced by a designated area somewhere at home. The journey to the office has been replaced by the telecommute. The standard 9-to-5 day has been replaced by flexible hours.
While these operational changes have given law firms business continuity in the face of the most severe global health emergency ever, the impact on individuals working from home (WFH) has not always been positive, argues our COO Deborah Witkiss. However, Deborah is quick to point out that software can resolve many of the problems experienced by WFH employees and their employers alike.
Blurring the boundaries between professional and private life
For remote workers, the line separating work from home has become blurred. You could even say it’s been removed altogether. The reason is there’s simply no clear geographic division from workspace to personal space, no punctuation to the daily grind and no set time of day to shut down the laptop.
The conjoining of the work and home spheres, and working longer days, mean that stress in the industry is on the rise. The ensuing mental health crisis is one of the well-documented, unfortunate effects of the coronavirus outbreak. From a law firm manager’s perspective, accuracy and attendance will bear the brunt of this unwelcome trend.
Other personnel-related concerns have emerged during the government-imposed WFH period too, these being supervision and teamworking, both of which prove difficult when staff are not convening in a central location anymore. The result is lack of essential direction and failure to function as a coherent whole.
These factors do not a successful law firm make.
Gaining immunity through software
Part of the solution comes in the form of cloud case management and legal accounts software which contains the requisite functionality to support home workers and the management teams responsible for the smooth running of the practice equally.
The first way in which software helps is by introducing efficiencies. Where Insight Legal Software is concerned, this plays out areas such asthe workflow, tasks and time recording features of our Enterprise system.
To clarify, workflow is the defined, repeatable process of handling a particular type of matter from the moment you first receive the instruction to the stage you sign it off as complete and send your final invoice for legal fees due.
Being able to assign tasks and actions, whether it’s for yourself or a colleague, in order to tackle each step in your workflow, makes sure that the right things are being done by the right people, at the right time. But more than that, you can also see what hasn’t been done, and be alerted to information that’s missing or steps not completed. Not just an efficiency, but a vital tool when working apart from other staff.
The whole of Insight Legal Enterprise is greater than the sum of its parts. These combined components transform efficiencies by taking performance to a higher level. In other words, your staff can get more work done in less time. Finishing work for the day and switching off the computer at an appropriate time is suddenly an attainable goal.
With a helping hand from automation, accuracy skyrockets. The automatic prompts to perform an action, automatic population of data, automatic calculation of financials, and automatic saving of correspondence and documents to case eliminates the risk of human error to which anyone working long hours is prone. With work made easier, morale will benefit; an improvement that should filter through onto attendance records.
Every action in your workflow is accompanied by time recordings. This is important not only from its close links to billing for costs recovery; it’s also a comprehensive log of how much time your solicitors are spending per day on fee earning. More on this in a moment.
The second way in which software helps is by enhancing management and collaboration.
Real-time reports of the aforementioned time records give senior leaders intelligence into hours worked on an individual, department or practice-wide basis. Similarly, reports on live matters highlight inequalities and overburdens in terms of workload. These reports ascertain potential areas of concern – be it too many hours being worked or too many cases being managed simultaneously – to address before stress becomes an issue with all of its attendant negative consequences.
With workflow functions, there’s assistance for managers in the ability to set up approval measures, perform file reviews, distribute work and redistribute during sickness or holiday. The associated monitoring and reporting permits ironing out of any discrepancies by identifying mistakes for rectification, tackling unfair volumes so that no one is stretched more than another, prioritising work for its timely completion and continuing case progress to stay on track.
Teamworking capabilities are revolutionised as well, because the software provides the platform to coordinate everyone’s schedule, align employees and oversee junior people, all of which is as straightforward remotely as it is face to face by having the right system in place. Being on the same page allows your business to be more orderly, your procedures more methodical and your service delivery more consistent, for advantages internally (morale and engagement) and externally (stakeholder perceptions). These are the visible manifestations of a well-managed company.
Risk, trust and control
Insight Legal participated in the latest Law Society Gazette roundtable on the changing nature of risk during Covid-19, with wellbeing and supervision discussed at length, amongst other subjects. The general consensus was about not getting overly distracted by the tangential issues of WFH at the cost of people. We are, after all, a sector whose business is delivering legal services for which we wholly rely on our people.
HR programmes are, of course, the primary channel to overcome staff welfare challenges. As we have demonstrated here, though, software also plays a leading role.
But software’s role is about more than just empowering your talent to be productive anywhere with cloud faculties. Software’s role is to elevate efficiencies, reimagine legacy processes, mitigate risk in all its guises, unite and protect workers, and strengthen controls to tick your ‘working from home’ box, not ‘living at work’.
In the roadmap out of lockdown, 21st June signifies the end of all social contact restrictions. Law firms are free to choose how they will operate from this date onwards. Some practices will be keen to return to a totally office-based structure, some will pare back on office space after realising a fully remote framework is viable, whereas some will adopt a hybrid architecture combining the two models.
Whatever of these roads you travel, Insight Legal is here to support your business decision. Our software gives you the total flexibility to run your company any which way with tools designed to optimise procedures, connect people and equip partners to manage their business better. Click here for further information.