Law firm modernization
Embracing the Business of Law has become a competitive imperative for law firms globally. New working practices are being embraced - from reviewing and restructuring support teams and resource management, to adopting a digital-first approach - to achieve a more efficient, agile and cost-effective operational model.
Digitization efforts have accelerated rapidly over the last two years, as circumstances enforced drastic changes to firms’ working patterns. For those firms with the right technology in place, adaptations were streamlined with successful change management, thanks to vital operational data and workflow visibility – as found in BigHand’s 2021 Legal Workflow Management Report.
For U.S. law firm Best Best & Krieger, the modernization agenda was already well established as an operational priority prior to the pandemic. BB&K has always considered itself to be ahead of the curve in technology, efficiency and workplace satisfaction, as firm leadership finds this approach to ultimately benefit the client.
With the implementation of BigHand Workflow Management, during 2021 BB&K successfully adopted a data-driven approach to optimize the way in which secretarial teams carry out and manage tasks, as well as the way task management is reported. As a result, BB&K has gained significant operational efficiencies. It has optimized the use of its centralized secretarial teams; improved task turnaround by identifying and addressing potential bottlenecks; and removed subjectivity from staff reviews and remunerating those who are over-performing. It has achieved this all while engaging and empowering staff in its new, hybrid and flexible working model.
BB&K COO Jamie Zamoff explains: “Infrastructure modernization has been an operational priority for a long time. From technology investment to process improvement, we are looking to make everything as effective and efficient as we can. However, both for us as a firm, and for many of my peers across the industry, the way we make the most efficient use of our secretarial staff has remained an issue.”
“The job itself has changed so much and the technological competency of both attorneys and secretaries has increased. Yet in many ways, innovation has been hampered by traditional ways of thinking,” Jamie states. “It’s been crying out for a new approach; a digital-first, data-driven way of improving task workflow. That opportunity presented itself with BigHand.”
Introducing legal workflow management
BB&K was excited by the potential BigHand Workflow Management offered. In particular, the sheer amount of data and reporting capabilities that it would provide, the granular insight and a baseline for both workflow improvement and the equitable treatment of staff.
The firm began early stage implementation in late 2020 and following a phased introduction through a 60-day pilot scheme, went live to all practice support teams in early 2021.
BB&K recognized the pressures attorneys were under during the pandemic and chose to not enforce new working practices on them. Instead, attorneys continued to delegate tasks to practice support teams in the same way they did before. Now though, on receipt of the task, the secretaries upload to BigHand where a central team of three regional office administrators, plus a firm-wide secretarial coordinator, monitor the centralized dashboard.
“When any one of the administrators sees any type of problem, or any secretary escalates a concern, or even if an assignment has been sitting for too long, we can see a staff member with availability and dynamically reallocate the task, without the attorney - or assigned secretary - having to worry about whether it’s going to be completed within the right timescales,” Jamie says. “It’s helped us to optimize task management and helped our geographically widespread teams collaborate better.”
Jamie cites BB&K’s litigation secretarial team as one that has greatly benefited from BigHand’s service. “The dashboard of assignments has proven a highly beneficial organizational tool,” he explains. “The team, which cuts across all the geographies in which we operate, really leans on each other and has become hugely adept at passing work back and forth between each other.”
Unlocking the benefits of flexible and hybrid working
For BB&K, the most unexpected (and a very much welcomed) benefit of BigHand Workflow Management has been the ability to supervise remote workers. As Jamie explains: “Before the pandemic, our secretaries did not work remotely. It was simply the status quo that they were office based. And this is, in part, the mindset that needed to change to enable innovation.”
“With BigHand, that situation is completely different. Because we can now see what individual members of staff are doing every day and how busy they are, we have been able to embrace a remote, hybrid and flexible working environment and will continue to do so after the pandemic is over. It’s been a change for the better, both for staff wellbeing and morale as well as operational efficiency.”
Additionally, BigHand has proven a useful support tool during staff reviews - from identifying potential training needs and when and where to recruit, to providing the data-driven insight to reward those most productive team members. “It’s been a check and balance for what we were otherwise only hearing anecdotally,” Jamie adds.
Despite all the progress and success BB&K has already achieved – the firm still considers its journey with BigHand Workflow Management to be in its infancy.
“We’ve already planned to expand use of BigHand to different groups of employees in the firm in 2022,” Jamie explains. “For example, we want to start the roll out to our paralegal workforce and various administrative departments who are excited about building new workflows into BigHand.”
“Our organization has been growing a lot over the last several years and as we grow, it's obviously more difficult for any single attorney to know who to go to with an assignment, especially if it's not the person they work with day-to-day. I'm excited about how much easier it is going to be for people to simply get things done. With a tool such as BigHand, we can easily create workflows to suit our evolving needs. Without a doubt, BigHand Workflow Management and a data-driven, digital-first strategy is the key to underpinning future operational gains.” he concludes.