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How law firms can adapt to a shift in approaches to work

Guy PhillipsExtended 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.

Maximising the potential of remote working

The perks of remote working go beyond just avoiding long commutes and working in your pyjamas! Beyond mere convenience, legal firms should also recognise the ways that flexible working can be an advantage for them and their clients, while providing significant benefits for employees as well.

One of the main advantages of remote working is increased flexibility, enabling legal professionals to work the hours that are best for them. This can have a positive impact on employee productivity and their overall wellbeing. After all, minimising commuting times and office distractions can be a big help for those who are at risk of burnout.

It’s not just staff who can reap the rewards – there are other organisational benefits to consider. Employee wellbeing, job satisfaction and engagement have all been linked to better staff retention, performance and high profitably. Implementing remote working policies also offers law firms the opportunity to reduce overheads. For instance, office leases and employee parking spaces can be a financial strain and eat away at a firm’s profits. 

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If nothing else, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the absolute necessity of making remote work possible for legal professionals. However, if law firms want to reap the benefits of remote working, they need to ensure they have the right tools to do so. 

A seamless and secure technology experience

Whether work is taking place in the office or out of it, legal professionals should have a seamless experience when doing so. When it comes to email, cloud-based platforms are much more preferable to one based on a local server, as lawyers today use their smartphones as their primary means of accessing emails outside of the office. Equally, having access to digital copies of all documentation is key to remote work, so a cloud-based document management system should be a pre-requisite.

Clearly, confidentiality and security are some of the biggest concerns for legal professionals when it comes to remote or flexible work. Research by PwC has shown that all of the UK’s top 100 law firms suffered a cybersecurity incident in 2019. Whether it’s taking physical documents out of the office, connecting to public Wi-Fi networks or making phone calls in coffee shops, maintaining the same level of security and confidentiality required in the office while working remotely can be an issue.

Although it may seem safer to store important data on-premises in traditional data centres or servers, public cloud infrastructure is now widely regarded as an equally and in some cases, more secure option. This is thanks to the fact that public clouds typically have fewer vulnerabilities and a receive a far greater level of investment in security than individual organisations may be able to give their on-premises system. What’s more, many of the cloud-based tools that empower remote work can enhance a law firm’s security. For example, a cloud-based document management system should not only make it possible to access documents and data from anywhere, but also provide advanced security services such as document encryption, user access controls, document action prevention, and more.

Preparing for the future 

With remote working now well and truly in the spotlight, law firms need to adapt to this new way of life. Failure to adequately equip employees with the correct tools could not only risk stifling productivity, efficiency and collaboration, but could leave firms at greater risk of cyber-threats.

By implementing cloud-based digital tools that support remote-working, organisations will be able to prepare their employees now and long into the future.

Guy Phillips is the Vice President International Business at NetDocuments
 

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