Supporting a Hybrid Workforce
Retaining highly skilled, experienced staff has become a challenge for law firms globally – as highlighted in the BigHand Legal Workflow Management Report. With hybrid working now becoming the norm, employees expect firms to offer a flexible working environment that supports different working models, including part time and remote working.
Having complete visibility of support tasks is now a necessity, underpinned with robust processes and technology for delegating and prioritising tasks, irrespective of individual location. As Emma Wade, People and Culture Leader at Hall Payne Lawyers, explains
“The only way to compete in the market as an employer is to be agile, to provide employees with the technology that enables effective hybrid working and provides the firm with the visibility needed to support employees.”
The implementation of BigHand Workflow Management has transformed Hall Payne’s allocation of work, empowered support staff to take ownership of tasks and provided lawyers with immediate access to a pool of talent across the firm.
Improving Client Referrals
Hall Payne Lawyers are leaders in personal injury, employment and industrial relations. The fast expanding business has offices in Brisbane, Ipswich, Rockhampton, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart and Darwin, employing over 80 people.
The firm was inspired to upgrade its BigHand licenses to the full Workflow Management offering to achieve support task visibility and gain key operational data to inform decision making. While the legal support implementation was a strategic initiative, Hall Payne Lawyers saw the opportunity to achieve an initial ‘quick win’ by improving its inbound referrals process. With incoming client calls covering a wide array of legal issues, including personal injury and employment concerns, the firm’s referral team has to ask many questions before the client can be referred to the correct individual.
As Emma says, “Hall Payne Lawyers has a number of individuals dedicated to managing client referrals and we need to be able to track the progress, ensure the client has been allocated to the correct individual and that the initial enquiry has been followed up. Using the legal-specific workflow tool ensures multiple people have full visibility of each referral, with prompts to ensure timely follow ups to referrals. The process is now far more well managed and organised.”
Looking ahead, the firm is looking to further refine the process by allowing direct delegation between staff – lawyer to lawyer, assistant to assistant – and allowing assistants to log their own task, providing the firm with a complete view of the chain of activity at the click of a button.
“Further simplifying this workflow will make another significant improvement in the process of responding to and managing referrals, including significant administrative time savings,”
Maximising Legal Support
Having proved both the value and ease of implementation of BigHand Workflow Management, Hall Payne Lawyers focused on the tool’s potential to support flexible working across the firm. As Emma explains, “In our support team we have several employees who are working part time or returning from parental leave and therefore need a little more flexibility.”
Key to achieving this goal was a change from the traditional one-to-one lawyer to support staff relationship, to developing a central pool of talented legal resource for lawyers to send tasks to. However, there was initial resistance from lawyers used to quickly emailing a request to a dedicated resource. While they recognised the value of the new working model to the support team, many lawyers were concerned the process added to their workload.
BigHand created a solution by offering lawyers the ability to email requests to a dedicated BigHand inbox where tasks are triaged by a member of the support team and then delegated to the right resource. For lawyers, the process is quick and effective, while also providing the support team with far more ownership and control over their day-to-day activities.
“The process also includes prioritisation. In addition to including all the relevant information in the email attachment, lawyers are asked to include the type of task required in the email subject line – such as book a meeting or save to file - which helps with the prioritisation and delegation. Lawyers can also set up the email as urgent if it has to be handled as a priority, to ensure tasks are managed within the right timeframe,” Emma confirms.
Legal Effectiveness and Efficiency
This model transformed lawyer buy in and rapidly increased the use of BigHand Workflow Management across the firm. “The support from BigHand has made the process so much easier,” says Emma. “One of the biggest turning points in the project was having the solicitors sit down with our BigHand liaison, explain their concerns and then be presented with an immediate solution that overcame their worries.”
One interesting distinction is that many early career lawyers are opting to use BigHand Workflow Management because they recognise the process is quicker and more complete, especially using templates. “The younger individuals are more familiar with apps and technology, which means they have been quicker to embrace the template forms,” she confirms.
“They have recognised that BigHand Workflow Management forms capture all the information required incredibly quickly which means there is no delay, no missing information that has to be chased. As they share their experiences with colleagues, more lawyers will begin to understand the value of not only a shared support resource, but also the complete end-to-end workflow process.”
Support staff have been involved in the process throughout, enjoying the ability to take ownership and control of tasks. With full visibility of outstanding tasks, assistants can also delegate across the team; while the ability to add comments to a task has also removed the need for time consuming handovers – the next person has all the information required to progress the activity.
In addition to the main office in Brisbane, Hall Payne Lawyers has recently rolled out the Workflow Management solution in its Sydney and Hobart offices and is set to provide the smaller offices in Darwin and Melbourne with the technology. The restructure has allowed the firm to move away from one-to-one delegation within individual offices and the plan now is to use the complete visibility of tasks to provide additional support across the firm. “Smaller teams can be hugely affected if one person is on holiday,” explains Emma. “The complete visibility of support tasks across the firm will ensure the larger team in Brisbane can jump in and help when required.”
In addition, the fast-growing offices in Melbourne and Darwin will require more support in the future. With access to the legal task delegation solution, all lawyers, irrespective of location, will have the same access to skilled support resources. The firm is also looking to incorporate administrative staff processes, including reception staff, to help streamline processes further.
As Hall Payne Lawyers rolls out BigHand Workflow Management across the firm, Emma is looking forward to exploring the powerful operational legal data and reporting, to better understand support workloads across each office, including trends and demand for specific tasks. In addition to providing accurate data to support staff recruitment needs, the reports will also reveal the activities of different staff members and surface any issues that may require action.
“In a competitive environment, ensuring our staff are happy and have good work-life balance is key. The ability to assess time management and highlight any issues that may indicate a need for additional training, for example, is incredibly powerful and will enable Hall Payne Lawyers to proactively address potential issues. In addition, the workflow data will also reveal the way lawyers are using BigHand Workflow Management, showing where additional support is required,” she says.
In a post-COVID world, hybrid working is now seen as the norm. For Hall Payne Lawyers, the goal is not just to use legal workflow technology to enable the collaboration and task sharing that supports effective and efficient service delivery, but also to ensure the hybrid working model is effective for all staff.
“We need visibility to support our employees. I don’t want one employee to be working nine hours a day, and another four hours. It is hard to see that in the office, even harder when people are working remotely,” Emma explains.
“With BigHand Workflow Management we have the insight to understand how people are working; to highlight any problems with specific tasks and engage quickly to address any issues. We now have the ability to ensure everyone is supported and fulfilled, while optimising our client delivery.”