I had the pleasure of attending the Alternative Legal Hangout in May where we discussed driving law firm productivity as we all transition from working from home, to ‘working from anywhere ’. There was lots of interesting discussion on a number of topics including the ‘self-sufficient lawyer’ and its impact on the billable hour, the ongoing importance of effective task delegation and the most appropriate support staff model to move forward into a hybrid working environment.
There was an overwhelming consensus that despite the rise of the ‘self-sufficient lawyer’, the need for legal task delegation to the most appropriate support resource remains key to maximising lawyer productivity. Whilst some firms have already made changes to their support model during the pandemic, there was general agreement amongst attendees that further improvements could be made in order to best support their lawyers now that agile working looks set to stay.
A key takeaway from the event was the need to win hearts and minds prior to any change in support structure; disrupting long standing ways of working is no easy feat! We’ve all heard that any successful change initiative should include People, Process, Technology, but another key factor has to be Data. Technology needs to underpin the process, people need to adopt said process, which is then supported by reliable data to allow firms to continually measure, adjust and improve as they move through the change process.
The people element of change is something the attendees acknowledged as being the most difficult aspect; something I have to agree with having been at the coal face of change projects in a national law firm prior to my role at BigHand.
Everybody reacts to change differently and there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach. When guiding colleagues through change, firms should be prepared for various different reactions and set out a clear and precise communication and engagement plan to ensure everyone impacted by the change is aware of the who, what, where, when and why.
Ongoing communication and an open feedback loop is key, whilst also ensuring individual groups understand the positive impact the change will bring to them and their working day. Firms also need internal project champions to drive home key messages and ensure teams are truly embedding new ways of working into their daily lives.
The classic top down/bottom up approach works well, with key stakeholders pushing strong and consistent messages from the top whilst those on the ground are empowered to educate and assist colleagues with new technology and processes.
As the legal sector gets to grip with a post-pandemic working environment, it’s clear that the hybrid working model is here to stay. Initial plans for agile working are already underway but this will be an evolving model, and firms will need to ensure employees have all the productivity tools they need to work effectively from anywhere, coupled with appropriate data-driven reporting to make adjustments if necessary.
Whilst many firms seem to be encouraging lawyers to be more self-sufficient, there is still a need to ensure they remain effectively supported by those with the appropriate skillset and, in turn, that those support teams remain as effective in an agile world.
After 15 years in house at a law firm, it’s great to finally see a truly agile working environment for the legal sector and it’s even better to see many firms now allowing support staff to work away from the office as well as lawyers; which in the long run will help retain talent whilst promoting that sought after work/life balance.