Law Firm Operations and Change Management: At Home, The Office or Hybrid.


Reflecting back on BigHand’s recent industry survey findings in ‘The Legal Workflow Report’ there is so much that resonated with me given the  eight years that I spent working in a law firm. If I look back to when I started in this industry, I think a lot has changed in a short amount of time, and the very concept of change management has transformed in the last 18 months. The fact that 58% of firms expect support staff to continue to work remotely for 3 or more days a week highlights just how the industry has come.   

While at my firm, we implemented and achieved a lot of change in support services, some of which was quite easy to implement while other change initiatives took more navigation, time and planning. Some involved many hoops and hurdles that had to be overcome, like changing to a team support model, which was one of those change initiatives that I often reflect on.

Support staff managers play a key role in change within a law firm culture and having put that work in on the ground, I look back and realize that it was very rewarding to see how far we had come. If I was to go back and do it all over again, there are some things I would do differently:

  • I would take more time to listen with purpose and focus on the end goal instead of living in the moment. Instead of imposing change, where possible, I would gain feedback initially from end users and make them more a part of the planning process to gain buy in from the onset.

After we learnt this and made some quick adjustments, we started to focus on teams that were asking for new legal workflow tools and processes which in turn created a snowball effect of positive change.  That gave me momentum to keep going and to keep my eye on the prize!

Explaining and understanding the need for change is extremely important.  One of the first steps in any change initiative is for those that will be affected to understand why the change needs to occur and how it will benefit them.

I was always naturally curious about why we were doing things the way we were and the answer, ‘because we’ve always done it that way’, never really satisfied me. I thrived on the process of making something better and loved to challenge the status quo. If you can’t determine a good reason to keep it the way it is, challenge the current way of working to ensure that it is actually the best way to get the job done which will in turn deliver better service to your clients.

Our report found that 69% of firms confirm their clients expect work to be completed by the most cost-effective resource. Clients continue to expect more for less and we should be two steps ahead to ensure that we do not risk a client finding the agile service they desire at a top competitor. The pandemic has afforded the legal industry the opportunity to think and operate differently in the future. Hindsight really is 20-20 and when we all thought we couldn’t achieve efficiency and productivity working from home, we realized that we could. 

The idea of new and innovative approaches that once seemed like a daunting and arduous task, quickly became achievable and we all jumped in feet-first. I think this taught us all a valuable lesson that we can achieve anything, and sometimes, it just takes a little nudge!

Hybrid working models are a present trend and will most certainly also be the way of the future. We are quickly seeing that 2021 is the year to work from anywhere and that this trend will provide key flexibility that a new generation of lawyers and support staff expect.  This should organically have a positive impact on productivity and client service. 

The same can be said regarding team-based support models, which has continued to be a hot topic in the industry even though this concept surfaced before the pandemic. In fact, 76% of firms have already restructured or introduced new support teams according to our research. As we continue to look toward the post-pandemic light, there are some key components that I believe will help in achieving overarching success.

  • Take a look at where you are now and where you want to be. Think Who, What, Where and When.
  • Ensure you have the right people in place, the rights tools and processes for them to use, and that you have operational data that can help you paint a clear picture of how you may define your post-pandemic operating model.

One thing is for sure, you will not regret taking a step out of your comfort zone, challenging the status quo and trusting your instincts as you help to shape your firm for the future.

To access the full report click here.