The COVID-19 pandemic has removed any doubt that for firms to remain competitive in 2021, they must embrace and invest in technology that will better serve the customer and reduce costs. Despite a historic resistance to change, the profession was already feeling the heat pre-pandemic as technology giants have set a new standard for customer communication and transparency. These redefined customer expectations cut across all industries — not just big tech.
When the UK first locked down almost a year ago, even law firms with a deeply rooted culture of presenteeism had no choice but to adapt quickly to remote working. Concerns that people might be less productive or ‘available’ at home were overshadowed by the unfolding events.
No matter how well-equipped they were, firms didn’t only have to maintain continuity of service to clients but also manage cyber-risk in this highly regulated environment.
It is easy to focus on the severe disruption that the coronavirus pandemic has inflicted on almost all sectors of the UK economy. Business closures resulting from Covid prevention measures and pivoting to remote working practices have forced firms to rapidly change their operations. However, while this has been enormously disruptive for many companies, some sectors have also captured efficiency gains as a result.
In the property industry, significant progress has been made to digitise legal processes to ensure that transactions could take place safely and securely and conveyancers have adapted to remote working to allow them to continue to facilitate property transactions during the pandemic.
As we head into another 6 months of uncertainty, with the UK Government once again urging as many of us as possible to work from home, are we coming to terms with the fact that, the way that we used to work, is fast becoming a distant memory? The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly given companies of all shapes and sizes (and from all sectors) the opportunity to explore, in more depth, their approach to agile and remote working. The legal sector is no different.
Where to start? That is the nagging question facing those tasked with managing a modern investigation involving electronically stored information (ESI). Gone are the days when an ESI investigation simply meant having the IT Department run a rash of search terms across the enterprise email system and farming the results out to a cadre of reviewers for a “quick” three- to six-month turnaround.
Today, data and device proliferation demands anticipatory planning as well as careful and thorough execution to ensure that all means of electronic evidence will be available and accessible, particularly in view of the continuing transition to a predominantly remote workforce driven by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Daily, law firms generate large volumes of paperwork, with letters and forms changing hands via faxes, express mail delivery, and increasingly, in digital formats such as PDF. With everything from internal partner memos and court filings to privileged communications with clients now existing in digital spaces, security is more important than ever. Protecting these documents, not only from outsiders but also from internal misuse, requires a proactive approach to document security.
With that in mind, here are seven ways law firms can take action to better protect sensitive legal documents from misuse and potential exposure.
Given the current economic uncertainties and increased competition, coupled with a dispersed workforce, the need for knowledge management (KM) in law firms is amplified and so, it is no surprise that the function is making a resurgence. Long considered a luxury that only large law could afford, today thanks to technology, KM is supremely affordable. More importantly, the traditional remit of KM – i.e. document retrieval and reuse – has matured to embody the capture of ‘collective experience’ of the firm for competitive advantage.
So how can firms embarking on the adoption of KM as a business-critical function, ensure programme success? Here are five tips.
If one thing is certain, it’s that things remain uncertain. For the next six months at least, continued lockdown restrictions mean that remote working is here to stay.
Throughout lockdown, we have been speaking with leaders of in-house legal teams and, in the process, uncovered a trend of accelerated legal transformation and digitalisation projects. In the early days of the pandemic’s spread, the assumption was that business uncertainty would lead to projects being put on hold and legal tech budgets clawed back. Instead, we’ve found that projects have been reprioritised but not necessarily postponed.
Over the last decade, the legal ecosystem has expanded and evolved. Alternative legal services providers (ALSPs) – with their expertise in undertaking projects at scale and using technology to drive efficiencies – have entered the ring alongside the traditional law firms who possess deep subject matter expertise and dispense valuable strategic counsel.
Extended working hours have long been associated with the legal industry. In fact, a survey of 2,000 trainees and junior associates in the UK revealed that many were finishing work after 8pm on average. However, the work pattern of legal staff is shifting: an increased number are now prioritising flexible working instead of traditional office-based work, to provide a better work-life balance. This, combined with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, has meant law firms have had to adapt, and quickly, to ensure they are fully prepared to support this new way of working.
Career opportunities at top firms will always be extremely competitive - academic achievement alone is not enough to stand out. So how can today’s early-career legal professionals get a leg up on their competition?
Today’s new lawyers are wise to differentiate themselves by embracing arguably the most significant wave of change to hit the legal profession that may not have been discussed in law school: Digital Transformation.
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