This past week I convened a group call to discuss and share COVID-19 challenges in large law firms. Ten senior staff leaders of large law firms participated, most US-based but one from the UK and one from Canada. For those in large law firm who have not had an opportunity to connect with peers, perhaps reading about others’ challenges will help. This is about commiserating, not solutions. Two bright spots did come out so I start with those.
Separately, I tried crowdsourcing challenges and response via my 21 March 2020 blog post, Crowdsourcing Challenges + Responses in the Coronavirus Pandemic. I received four replies and share three below.
COVID-19 Challenges Emerging from Roundtable Call
- WHAT’S WORKING BETTER
- We created an internal blog to share crisis information. After years of trying to get uptake of blogs, we now have it. It’s a very popular resource.
- Really glad my firm moved to the cloud before the crisis. That means we have one less headache than many other firms.
- GENERAL CHALLENGES
- I’ve been working 18 and 19 hour days regularly.
- The firm culture clashes with what we need to do now to work from home and operate in new ways.
- Dealing with anxious lawyers. Not everything is really “I must have it in 10 minutes.”
- Our staff teams are overloaded getting everyone working remotely and dealing with other crisis issues.
- Maintaining morale, especially across national or global teams.
- The projects I was working on two weeks ago are now all on hold as I shift 100% focus to dealing with the crisis.
- INFORMATION, KNOWLEDGE SHARING, and TECHNOLOGY
- With our multiple offices and everyone disrupted, it’s hard to share answers to question already asked and answered. (RF: this is a problem in normal times but here the universe of questions is large but way smaller than usual.)
- Some want to keep prior standard that all work must be perfect (leave not mote of dust untouched) but many are now more willing to share prior to achieving perfection.
- We could get by in the past with lousy use of the document management system. Now, with everyone remote, we have to get everyone on it, using it properly.
- THOUGHTS ON THE FUTURE
- Lawyers are busy now but we are thinking how we can keep them busy in a month. In six months, many lawyers will beg to become Professional Support Lawyers (PSL).
COVID-19 Challenges from My Blog Post Survey
I opened this survey to the world, not just large law firms, via my blog, LinkedIn, and Twitter feed. Here are three responses:
From a 25-Lawyer Firm:
Challenge: The rapid shift to a remote workforce and adapting our processes and workflows to ensure the business can function.
Response: Move as much as possible to digital workflows. Eliminate the reliance on paper.
How’s Biz: Stable for now.
What’s Next: Embracing remote workforce will have wide ramifications for the business – space, staffing, even traditional working hours.
[RF Comment: interesting to see that a relatively small firm has the exact same challenges as much larger ones.]
From Leader of an New Law Firm:
Challenge: Keeping focused on client delivery
Response: We’re finding that being able to feed back granular daily data on how it is going to the team is really helping them keep aligned while all working from home.
How’s Biz: Volumes of contracts are down, projects are up. Generally, business levels are fine.
What’s Next: The market will be a lot more tech friendly and open to remote working.
From Leader of a Legal Tech Company:
Challenge: Sales – people are focused on delivering BCM plans. Despite the huge behavioural change this is generating, it means people are not yet open to procuring new tech. They are scared.
Response: To be collaborative (we always are anyway), looking to use what we have to be helpful right now and hopefully raise awareness of our product so that once people start to look to the horizon again they see us.
How’s Biz: We are lucky to be a distributed team working on Azure so scalable and not restricted by time and space, but sales are very very difficult. I think some law firms have huge amounts of business but high credit risk with clients. Collections may be difficult.
What’s Next: I don’t think we will go back and we all need to adjust to a new normal. We hope that for us, that provides opportunity
Editor’s Note – This article is republished with permission of the author with first publication on his blog Prism Legal.