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Powering a virtual or hybrid workforce in the cloud

James Ainsworth

It's no secret that the global pandemic changed the world of office work, forcing a pivot to mass-remote working. Like many, the legal industry reacted out of necessity in the short term — making on-the-fly adaptations to the methods and mechanics of delivering work — but this cannot be the new normal. A return to stability, predictability and the ability to implement any permanent changes at scale is essential, regardless of where or how we do the work.

But while it is a significant talking point in all professional circles, "where" we work is not the only area in which legal operations can improve post-pandemic. The "how" of delivering work was also stress-tested during the pandemic. Those utilizing a SaaS cloud deployment found the end-user and overall business objectives disruption minimized at the point of migration and beyond.

Learn from a panel of law firm professionals as they discuss how they adapted and still delivered upon critical business objectives in the last year and what the pandemic-induced acceleration and shift in focus on technology means for the rest of the legal sector on its path to a transformational future.

Watch the full panel conversation video and read the highlights below:



The difference is in the cloud

For those firms already in the cloud, it allowed them to focus their attention elsewhere — at the moment it mattered — they were free from the distraction of what tech was underpinning their pivot to remote working.

Ed Macnamara, Chief Technology Officer. Arent Fox.

"Arent Fox had been in the cloud since 2018. So we had a great experience during the pandemic because it gave us nothing to do. It just ran, and we could focus on other things during the pandemic,"

Many firms were in-flight with their transition from on-prem to the cloud when the pandemic struck. For others, the pandemic was the catalyst for deploying a global workforce into a new multi-locational way of working.

The transition itself is not painful; it is transformational

The overwhelming sentiment is that the process of moving to the cloud is swift, painless and has no end-user disruption.

Mike Gattone, IT Manager. Conrad O'Brien

"We migrated over during the pandemic. Our migration was very easy. We moved up to the cloud. And really, for the end-user, nothing really changed; it worked the same way. When they [employees] went home on Friday, when they came in on Monday, they opened up, and everything was almost exactly the same for them. So it was a good experience."

What it unlocks...

Cloud-based technology platforms enable location-agnostic collaboration for many.

Jason Winton. Partner. Thirsk Winton LLP

"One thing the pandemic showed us is that thinking about agile working is so important because enabling our lawyers to better work, how they want, where they want when they want―that's something we've been looking at for a long time."

"With devices, what we found was, where possible, try not to dictate to our lawyers what device they've got to use, how they have to use it.

"And we found that when, for example, we were using teams for collaboration, people were connecting from iPhones, from tablets. Some of them were in the office, some of them – most of the time weren't in the office, and just being able to offer that without being too prescriptive about the way they've got to connect and how they connected, went down well, and actually encouraged the lawyers to use these collaboration platforms."

Anthony Seruwagi, Manager- Information products. Shearman & Sterling.

"Mobile access, it was a huge selling point and got our partners buying into remote working. And we have this policy, any device anywhere, anytime, so that we saw an uptick in that."

"Also, with [Microsoft] Teams, we've seen a lot of user activity we have, I think over 130,000 calls and 20,000 channel messages. So, we've noticed that there's been a lot of collaboration happening even with co-authoring."

Technology for better business outcomes

Jason Winton. Partner. Thirsk Winton LLP

"Did our business outcomes, our desired business outcomes evolve? Not really, they stayed there. But we were able to keep progressing, improving those outcomes because we were well set up in advance."

Ed Macnamara, Chief Technology Officer. Arent Fox.

"Our business outcomes didn't change. But I think a big positive that came out of the pandemic was that the firm saw the benefits of technology, both in the ability of the firm to pivot and keep going. And we've seen that the firm continues to value technology more now than it did before because it seemed that it makes a big difference."

Mike Gattone, IT Manager. Conrad O'Brien

"By implementing more technologies and more collaboration. We're able to get document production out faster, using, you know, some of our paralegals or maybe, you know, being able to work on the fly remotely and be able to increase that production for our attorneys."

Legal technology is no longer consigned to 'any other business ― it is leading the business agenda

Ed Macnamara, Chief Technology Officer. Arent Fox.

"Every year, there's an annual note to the firm about how good the firm is doing. And in 10 years, there's never been a mention of technology. This year, technology was the first paragraph in the whole thing. So I think the legal industry as a whole recognizes that technology really is a critical piece to being successful, whether we're remote or in the office."

Implement and migrate cloud technology with confidence and wisdom

Implementing and adopting new technology best practice is about having an aligned strategy, a well-developed deployment plan and timing. The right time to migrate to the cloud has myriad influencing factors, of which, some are within your control, and others are beyond your control. The benefits, as told by those who have been there, done that, got the t-shirt and the happy end-users are clear. So too is the lack of disruption during implementation, as told by those firms who made the step before, during and after a significant, beyond their control event. 

If you are considering a move to the cloud, you can find more business-case making information in our Modern document management in the cloud whitepaper.

About the author

James Ainsworth