By Andrew King
Since COVID-19, the legal profession like so many people and industries has gone through a once in a generation transformation.
Overnight everyone had to adapt how they worked, often changing traditional practices just to survive.
The next few months will be tough for lawyers and their clients. However, as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, there is an opportunity for everyone to transform how they work – from those who had to embrace technology to operate; through to those at the forefront of legal innovation aiming to stay ahead of the game.
The first-hand experience of COVID-19 has given us a taste of what may be possible, with the opportunity to even come out of it stronger.
Technology became our lifeline
We all became totally reliant on technology, as technology became the lifeline for survival.
This reliance on technology came as quickly as we heard words like pivot, unprecedented, shift and the new normal – or as quick as some announced they were now ‘virtual lawyers’ on social media!
Overnight everyone had to start working differently – and remotely.
Some turned to Zoom (or a virtual equivalent), while others had access to all their systems and documents through the power of the cloud.
Unsurprisingly many that had not previously innovated or leveraged technology struggled, with some struggling to even enable their staff to work from home.
Those that had invested the time innovating and leveraging technology, still had their challenges, although they have been able to mobilise and respond quicker to the disruption.
The disruption of COVID-19 may be the catalyst for change that many resisted for so long. Those that were reluctant to innovate or invest in technology would probably now appreciate why they need to, and the value of investing further going forward.
Sure, the traditional law firm model is not going to collapse – it is just how these legal services can be delivered which may change. What COVID-19 has demonstrated is that we can adapt and work differently if we have to – changes that for some were a long way off only a few weeks back.
Opportunities to come out of this stronger
As we emerge from COVID-19, we have the opportunity to continue these great strides.
It is important to explore new ways of working, new ways of winning work, while still personalising the client experience and leveraging technology to work smarter for clients.
Building the right culture inside organisations to enable innovation is the starting point, with a culture that is curious and open to change.
Most will want to capitalise on the success of remote and flexible working, with a potential casualty being if the same size and elaborate office space is required. If we can incorporate the remote and flexible working into practices, can we move beyond the same 8-6/5 day working week (albeit potentially delivering some from home), helping productivity and shifting the focus to more outcome based.
Lawyers are going to have to help their clients navigate these challenging times. Client needs and expectations for legal services will be evolving as a direct result of the pandemic, bringing opportunities for lawyers to make their services more accessible and convenient for clients. This could include enabling interactive and collaborative online solutions to help clients.
More legal services can be commoditised, whilst others will look at new business models, and pricing structures together with leveraging technology to help their firms practise law more effectively. More routine and repetitive administrative tasks will continue to be performed quicker, cheaper, and more accurately all through the assistance of technology, again to better meet the demands of clients.
Different stages of the journey
Everyone will be at different stages of their innovation journey. For some this may be simply building on the experience of working from home with Zoom.
An incremental approach may be the solution, continually making small changes to how you operate.
Technology adoption does not need to be complicated or daunting, and in a truly short time many have experienced first-hand how technology can be utilised to greatly enhance how they operate. As we move forward, this will accelerate technology adoption and make life easier if any situation like COVID-19 should arise in the future.
The technology is available and accessible – together with some great New Zealand offerings too!
You cannot stand still
With whatever changes you do or do not make, (before or after COVID-19) – you cannot stand still!
It is important to remain curious and open to change. We should continue to ask “how can we do this better?” All to deliver legal services that are more efficient, profitable, whilst providing greater value and outcomes for clients.
We have so much still to learn.
To navigate the opportunities, a great starting point is to learn what others are doing, but how they are doing it. It is helpful to understand the lessons learned from the experience, together with what they are doing to deliver legal services for the future in a post-COVID-19 world. We are fortunate to have many excellent New Zealand legal professionals who can share their experiences.
Those that will come out of this stronger will largely be built on the work they have invested in innovating and leveraging technology. This is an opportunity now for others to appreciate how they can also adapt how they work when they have to.
Andrew King firstname.lastname@example.org has a long involvement in providing technology services and solutions to legal services providers. He is the organiser of the annual legal technology event LawFest, which is running a virtual OnDemand event ‘LawFestLive’ on 5 August 2020, www.lawfest.nz.