The legal sector has not always been a front-runner when it comes to the adoption of new technology, but a combination of factors is now prompting a change of strategy towards digital workplace transformation.
There is no doubt that the interruption to normal working processes in 2020 accelerated the adoption of digital processes, while economic uncertainty has encouraged firms to rethink decisions about the size of office properties they may require in the future.
Property is one of the biggest fixed costs that law firms have on their balance sheets, so it stands to reason that we are seeing a growing interest in downsizing and repurposing expensive real estate, especially now it has been proven that lawyers and administrators can work successfully from home.
The obvious place to start is by reducing a firm’s reliance on paper, working with workspace consultants to audit and rationalise existing case files and storage, freeing up 20% or more of floor space. But to really move forwards, legal practices need to adopt a top-down approach to records and case management.
This is not as simple as introducing case management software and assuming that this basic level of automation will bring long-lasting and effective change. In our work with law firms, we continue to see the following challenges:
Lack of rationale to adopt a paperless workspace
Lack of time and resource available for identifying duplicated documents
High volumes of unnecessary printing
100% duplication of hard copy documents to soft copy
High volumes of archive boxes
No firm-wide understanding of records management policy
Incoming documents and correspondence from other law firms
Where case management or workflow software is in place, it has often been introduced without in-depth training or change management policies. As a result, the original benefits planned are not delivered and firms risk wasting their investment, while unnecessary paper files continue to proliferate, leading to wasted time and space.
Adopting a digital first mindset was already on the agenda for many law firms, and long overdue for some. The lockdown has created the push that many needed to change, but the shape of the new workplace itself has also transformed to accommodate flexible and agile working.
Yet to continue attracting and retaining the best people, a law firm needs to find ways to maintain its unique culture, as well as continue to provide the training and mentoring that is so important in the development of new joiners and graduate trainees. Planning for a new world where staff may be working remotely for 50% of their time is vital, and successful change programmes will not happen by accident in this new environment.
The responsibility for establishing new efficient digital processes needs to come from senior partners, who must demonstrate buy-in and adoption themselves. However, given their busy workloads the answer is often to identify a partner with experience of similar digitisation projects that can advise on how to manage the combination of property, people, and information.
ClearSpace is working with several law firms that have seized the opportunity to reorganise all three of those elements before staff return to full or part-time work in their offices. Services include the following:
Property: changes relating to office relocation, office rationalisation, space planning, office clearance, move management, furniture storage and furniture re-use/charitable gifting.
People: ensuring firms’ most important assets are supported with staff engagement software, health and safety assessments, home office set-ups, personal item relocation and office attendance timetabling.
Information: providing safe and compliant access to documents and files with digital mailrooms, cyber security, document hosting, document storage and archiving, asset management and filing audits.
Using process maps, we can evaluate how IT-enabled processes can replace previously inefficient paper-based, manual work patterns. Since every law firm is different, we work with you to develop the best possible approach, then provide the people and resources to make change happen successfully.