Law Firms Expect to do More Work Remotely

Tara LevinLegal IT

With all 50 states having at least partially emerged from the COVID-19 lockdown, business owners are doing everything within their capacity to re-establish some semblance of normalcy and get back to their winning ways. However, given the length of the shutdown – which in several cases was in place for well over two months – what were originally unusual processes have taken root as routine.

One such industry is legal, as success with work-from-home models has some firms wondering when – or if – they’ll go back to the office now that they are mostly free to return.

In a late-May survey of over 200 law firm executives and leaders, nearly three-quarters of respondents said they anticipated not needing as much office space moving forward, given many of their employees or partners were performing well by working remotely, Thomson Reuters reported. In fact, nearly 1 in 5 said they expected to need as much as 25% less square footage than they did prior to the pandemic.

Sherry Cushman, executive managing director and leader of a prominent legal sector advisory group, told Reuters that numerous commercial office transactions were tabled due to the shutdown.

“Any [real estate] deals that were in the works, if the breaks could be put on, firms put them on hold,” Cushman explained.

Slow period for new client volume
Although some industries increased revenues in the wake of COVID-19 due to the nature of their products and services (e.g. big box retailers, grocery, paper and plastic suppliers, etc.) the vast majority have seen sales slip. Law firms have felt some of those adverse effects, which may also explain why commercial real estate deals were scuttled or suspended. For instance, in April, demand for legal services fell by a median of approximately 5%, Reuters found, based on a poll of 60 law firms. In a fifth of such cases, demand fell by as at least 20%. Indeed, a separate survey done by Martindale-Avvo revealed 81% of law firms saw revenues dip in line with the shutdown that stemmed from COVID-19 and health officials’ attempts to “flatten the curve.”

Martindale-Avvo President Diana Schulz doesn’t believe this dip in business will be long-lasting, however.

“The one thing about the legal system is, a lot of these matters can’t wait too long,” Schulz told ABA Journal. “So I do think the legal industry will recover faster than some other industries.”

Attorneys, legal assistants and paralegals’ ability to pivot from a primarily office-based environment to one entirely from home has enabled many firms to maintain productivity on case volume and workload. Leveraging cloud-based document management software and networking have further assisted them in these efforts.

Additionally, as projected by McKinsey & Company, it’s highly likely that litigation and business restructuring workloads will grow in the post COVID-19 world, services with which many law firms either offer or specialize in.

How can attorneys at law break out of the restarting gate strong? McKinsey offers a few suggestions:

Key in on clients
While clients should always come first and foremost, it’s particularly important in times like these. Partners should prioritize connecting, listening and responding to their clients on an ongoing basis and letting them know you’re able to help them however and wherever they need. This can help to deepen trust and strengthen lawyer-client relationships.

Make relevant information more personal
It’s an information age and people are bombarded with it from every which way. You need to ensure what you present is not only germane to their interests or goals but in a format that they best respond to.

Trim, don’t cut, the fat
Firms have emerged from the shutdown with new perspective on what services to maintain and which to eliminate. Instead of removing them entirely, look for opportunities to reallocate and build new capabilities.

Afinety has the software solutions and network support that can help your firm succeed as a more responsive, agile law firm, whether your employees work locally or 100% remotely. Contact us today to learn more.