As work and work life for legal professionals continues to evolve, we pause to consider what this evolution means for their employers — and how legal technology is marshalling its forces to support the industry through these changes and beyond.
This article briefly explores how the industry has adapted to change in the wake of a global pandemic and how legal teams continue to modify their approach to hybrid work — as well as how related challenges such as “The Great Resignation” are impacting their strategy. Finally, we look at how law firms and legal teams can tap into their collective intelligence to regain what is lost and win back their momentum in a hybrid world.
With hybrid work becoming a permanent fixture in the legal landscape, retaining top talent depends on a firm’s ability — and flexibility — to adapt to that reality.
Many new employees have been onboarded, business deals closed, and complex negotiations taken place without face-to-face contact since the advent of lockdowns and work-from-home mandates during the pandemic, to the detriment of office morale and the assimilation of company values. And despite growing evidence that the hybrid model may be a more productive way for law firms to work, many laterals and associates — junior lawyers in particular — want and need to work closely with more experienced lawyers to hone their own expertise and absorb company culture.
The office is clearly more conducive to this kind of learning. Offering associates and staff greater flexibility and the freedom to choose what they value in the office experience is key to employee retention. And whether the time is spent with clients or colleagues, making connections on office time is more motivating for people than virtual meetings they could have joined from home.
While the future promises more work produced in relative isolation, asynchronous collaboration must be a given. And that makes creating knowledge from content and generating insights from that knowledge — to be shared and reused — strategic in a way that it has not been viewed before. IT leaders must use technology to bridge the gaps in communications and collaboration created by these new paradigms and make the firm’s collective intelligence available to those looking to understand and leverage it.
How Can Technology Help?
Technology should free you from the mundane, allowing every team member to work more productively, smarter, and more securely. Automating rote tasks frees lawyers to do work that better serves their clients. And when security is embedded into the lifecycle of your workflow, compliance is effortless, empowering your teams to do their best work without risk to the organization.
Technology solutions enable firms to:
- Eliminate friction and save time by automating drudge work.
- Elevate performance with collaborative working models that connect teams with real-time action plans and status.
- Use AI and text analytics to search previous work product to quickly — and globally — deliver the knowledge attorneys need.
- Codify, implement, and monitor best practices with project-centric task management.
- Enforce need-to-know access that secures and governs sensitive content — enabling confident, protected sharing.
- Align perspectives toward a common goal and go beyond sharing expertise to acting on it.
Bringing these technologies together and integrating them seamlessly with key productivity applications leads to greater user adoption and satisfaction. Consolidation around a single source of truth, such as document management, reduces the costs of ownership and security while enabling more targeted global search and sharing. Better knowledge tools have been linked to increased attorney retention, while new, more agile ways of collaborating improve firm responsiveness and client satisfaction.
But we need to go the next step. Leading companies are introducing solutions that connect the hybrid office and facilitate knowledge sharing using matter-centric task lists that use practice-specific templates to codify best practices people are not in the office to share. The task lists can be standardized and monitored worldwide for consistent service delivery, ensuring best practices are followed — even defining the division of tasks between a firm and its clients.
These systems seamlessly catalog a firm’s collective intelligence globally and, with rich search capabilities, allow it to be securely leveraged anywhere and anytime — a key requirement in the era of hybrid work. They answer the question so often heard in hallways — “where are we with X” — without being face-to-face or searching multiple channels in Teams. Everyone with permission has visibility into exactly what’s happening with their matters.
Pay Attention to People and Process
Prevailing over the challenges of hybrid work is as much about people as it is about technology. Firms that achieve the best business outcomes — increasing their knowledge sharing and collective intelligence though an era of change — are those that consider human concerns and technical factors together. Hybrid work solutions ask lawyers and staff to change and adapt to new ways of working, never an easy task.
We find that the most successful teams:
- Commit to a change management program with senior level backing and assign owners that focus on:
- Motivating change by selling benefits like improved knowledge search and mining, better client service, and staff retention
- Being clear about where information goes — what is work product, what is casual, and where do each go?
- Ensuring that practice leads buy in to the effort and adopt the best practices
- Take a practice-specific approach, with best-practices agreed and key practice leaders and stakeholders involved
- Emphasize user adoption: Most modern systems produce reports that measure user engagement and enable more targeted support and change management efforts.
Transitions: From Knowledge to Intelligence
Law firms and legal departments that were already using modern communications and remote work technologies when the global pandemic hit made easy transitions to the work-from-home model, physically, and were able to thrive and grow in the virtual environment.
iManage, too, made the transition to all remote working in the pandemic, and — while working closely with our customers throughout the cycle — we observed what was different and tasked ourselves with how our observations could inform our best response.
We focused on:
- Engineering the most comprehensive secure global cloud platform for legal and professional content — built on Microsoft Azure for its global footprint and ability to meet the geo-location needs of our client base
- Creating deep integrations with Microsoft 365 (Office), Outlook, and Teams to provide a seamless iManage Work 10 content and communications experience when co-authoring and collaborating
- Developing critical new products, including iManage Tracker, with its project-centric task lists that enable discrete collaboration and close a critical remote-work gap
- Partnering with industry leaders to enrich content in iManage with metadata that enables new intelligent search applications for lawyers
- Continuing our effort to automate rote processes and improve attorney satisfaction
The iManage partnership with Microsoft means more innovative solutions that drive better outcomes for our customers. And as the industry’s leading repository of knowledge assets, we take the stewardship of our customers’ collective intelligence — as well as enabling them to harness that intelligence and keep it available to all in the hybrid work environment — seriously.
New technologies and best practices have enabled our users to tap into their knowledge assets and transition these to collective intelligence. And in the wake of a global pandemic, we all set our course to regain what is lost and win back momentum in a hybrid world.
Read more about how iManage innovation and strategic partnerships are promoting better business outcomes in a hybrid world.
This article first appeared in Artificial Lawyer.