A monumental change has been experienced across all businesses. A quick chat is disrupted with the odd silence. The picture of the colleague who sits next to you is occasionally pixelated, sometimes frozen. An email is a text, a passed note pings.
Be it for 12 weeks or longer - the digital era is upon us.
This is a change that has been truly felt across organisations across the globe. It is an emotional change, at an emotional time, and this is across the board. But because of the perceived legal world’s resistance to change, I believe this change has been most heavily felt in Law, where rigid business processes and legacy workflows have sometimes restricted change in the past.
Previously, it has taken time and generations to practice and build change within a firm, adopting these changes as part of day-to-day business. But the change at hand is like no other. The agent of change is not the CIO, it is not the board and it is not an idea. It is a pandemic, a government and a lockdown. It cannot be reasoned with, and it has no plan; it is radical and rapid.
And so, firms have fallen into the arms of their internal technology teams, who have worked tirelessly to charter untested waters in response to an unprecedented crisis. We have seen a tidal wave of pressure and emotion wash over equally scared, stressed and unsure teams who have strived to collect the fallen bricks and build a system from the ground up, in the image of what stood before.
There has been a move away from traditional approaches to innovation, which has dominated the Legal Technology scene for quite some time. Moving away from the future of business and law, it is the role of technology teams across the globe to sustain the present. However, innovation did happen, as change was sprung from government enforcement – and isolation – rather than a boardroom.
And so, IT responded, adapted and replicated - not just the people, but the technology they rely upon.
Successful change management is a multifaceted process. It requires tools, training, and guidance, to instill comfort and confidence in those affected. After all, changes in business are brought about when people change - and in the field of law, this has historically not been an easy task.
It is at times like this that we must realize that a law firm - like any other business - is a living thing, with the ability to continually change as the world changes around it. From the pandemic at hand and the hard work of IT personnel, lawyers have seen a remarkable, overnight evolution in working practice. Contrary to the tradition of office, desk, and the physical space of production, the world of law has been turned on its head.
Forging an intersecting and interacting ecosystem, with seamlessly integrated technologies, IT has brought the community of the office online. They have set digital principles, encouraged self-management, enforced accountability and represented both the company’s situation at hand, as well as it’s ambition.
Without a web of communication channels, knowledge and trust fall to the wayside. Productivity is lost. Customer satisfaction drops. Confidence in the structure at hand, too, wanes. It is only when traditional means of connection are removed that we can truly comprehend the humanity inherent in the system of a law firm.
So, IT Teams in firms worldwide have brought together the pieces of the puzzle. They’ve listened to needs and anticipated them, too. VPNs, laptops and remote office solutions have been set-up, tested and delivered. Document and Practice Management systems have been truly road-tested, and their agility has been proven, but with this, IT has stepped up to the mark of re-education. Sometimes working closely with Learning and Development functions, and sometimes without such luxuries, they have upskilled a possibly previously resistant team to unprecedented levels.
We’ve seen widespread adoption of conference facilities, including Microsoft Teams for firms to communicate internally, and for the success of the business. Not only are colleague and colleague brought closer, but client and firm can reach out to each other with video chats, with catchups and with calls.
Using emotional intelligence, IT Teams have anticipated potential stress points and reacted with sympathy. Sustaining the survival of practices worldwide, IT Teams have delivered the tools to not only maintain Business As Usual - but Life As Usual. With the basics to rely on, the cultural shift and the change in mindset needed to produce and deliver is just a little easier with children running around in the background.
Although we have not seen such a global spread of change, we have seen IT’s ability to respond and adapt in previous cases. In many ways, the IT department has become synonymous with the change department. IT has been at the centre of so much change, and from within it has encouraged and pushed change outwards. IT is not only the facilitator of change, but the overarching support for all key elements of change: strategy, process, procedure, and most poignantly, people.
IT has a role outside of numbers and algorithms. Seeing change as an opportunity, IT Teams have always searched tools to innovate and connect the dots. They have always acknowledged the role of positive listening in times of change. We have seen so many of the IT Teams we work with keen to involve the people of the firm in both change management and process implementation, acknowledging that change does not start with “how,” but “why”. Listening to feedback, fueling collaboration and driving change, it’s clear that IT is as much about engagement as evolution.
We’ve seen IT Departments sustain and deliver change in a number of recent scenes. With cultural shifts towards more environmental practices, IT worked to deliver paperless, agile solutions. With lifestyle shifts, IT worked to deliver remote working solutions for parents working from home and those without the luxury of 9-5 lives. It has been there to “keep the lights on”, but they have also actively taken part in – and driven - strategic decisions, as well as fueling innovative initiatives. They have stretched, challenged and interrupted, driven teambuilding and filled skills gaps.
And in times like this, IT Teams have come together – across functions, across organisations. We have seen internal IT Teams share their solutions with other firms, collaborate on strategies and work out the processes we rely on, together. Fundamentally, we change to do things better – and this is the role of IT in the modern age.
So, IT Teams build on what they’ve built, providing us all with the assurance that we rely upon in pressing times. The assurance that we will all be okay in the end. The assurance that what we – be we lawyers, or others - can deliver as we have always delivered, in times like this, and afterwards.
The role of technology in the time of COVID-19 is threefold: to act, to assist and to assure.
In our industry, we have seen these roles shared between vendor, partner and IT Team, and we have been astounded by the multi-faceted skillset of the IT Teams we work with.
At Tiger Eye, we have seen this unfold firsthand because we work closely with internal IT Teams, providing services to support and assist firms with Document Management, Knowledge Management and more for a range of organisations. We strive to work with empathy, actively listening to work not just as an IT Provider, but as an IT Partner - but we are the first to admit that this can only go so far. It is a firm’s internal IT Team who truly empathize with the struggles of an employee, with the culture of a firm and the requirements – and expectations – at hand. We have been blown away by our clients’ ability to adapt, and to anticipate need. To rectify, to replicate and to navigate the digital paradigm shift.
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