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Forming Good Remote Work Habits for Law Firms

Lawyer at desk

You likely know the pearl of wisdom that it takes three weeks to make or break a habit. That rule was set forth in a random 1970s self-help book, yet many of us accept it as canon. In reality, how many habits have you actually changed in just 21 days? The truth of human behavior is, of course, more nuanced and more complex than a prescriptive number of days or weeks. Quitting smoking could take years to do; a commitment to exercising every day might start out with dedication and enthusiasm for months, only to be undone after a few missed workouts.

So, what happens when you’re forced into a new habit without an adjustment period? That’s the social experiment we’re involuntarily participating in as a result of COVID-19. Employees, businesses, and leadership alike have had to turn on a dime, making drastic adjustments on all sides of the work-from-home front. Law firms and their employees are no exception.

Let’s examine some make-or-break habits that law firms are reckoning with as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks half a year of havoc (and counting) and defines a ‘new normal.’

Make a Habit: Prioritizing Security and Data Compliance

We’ve talked previously on the blog about the security and compliance risks of a workforce working remotely. Law firms with remote employees are no different, and firms with more traditional work setups prior to the pandemic may have found themselves underprepared for the transfers of, and work on, sensitive client data from outside of the firm.

The risk of compromise to employee endpoints increases exponentially when employees are accessing a partially or fully digital infrastructure for their day-to-day work from outside your organization’s network or using VPN to remotely access the network. Endpoint visibility and monitoring, and the ability to stop or mitigate the effects of a true attack, is crucial for a remote workforce and remains important even as employees return to the office or permanently adopt hybrid schedules.

Break a Habit: Approaching Your Business as Usual

In the new normal, ‘business as usual’ has become a process of iterative change, many times for the better. BAU means collaborating in unprecedented ways. Law firms, corporate legal teams, and others along the supply chain may find tenfold benefit in cross-collaboration, and from the client perspective, the lines between these teams become even more blurred in an all-remote workforce. Sharing client data that’s been processed and transformed by methods and tools across the supply chain makes collaboration both easier and more fruitful. Optimizing case data in this way should be an objective for any organization as networks of providers build and become more seamless in their services.

Business as usual also means examining the best ways to collaborate within your eDiscovery tools. An on-premises eDiscovery solution makes sense for an on-premises workforce, but a scattered team makes a compelling case for SaaS tools—most notably trading costs associated with infrastructure maintenance and onsite management for the freedom of rapid scaling to meet project needs and automatic updates to ensure you’re using the latest and greatest features.

Break a Habit: Thinking Inside the Box About Services and Billing

Like—but in many ways far worse than—the 2008 financial crisis, the pandemic has reverberated across all facets of life and work. In such an economic downturn, clients are  making decisions at the margin and carefully weighing cost versus necessity.  Many, many firms are already grappling with reduced caseloads and having to implement cost-cutting procedures as a result.

For legal practitioners, this may be the perfect time to innovate—in big ways, like investing in the firm’s knowledge management practice for more efficiently using (and even reusing) existing client and case data, and devising ways to add value through new service offerings. This is happening in smaller but no less meaningful ways, like automating review workflows and enacting machine learning during review, for more efficiency and fewer costly errors.

Make a Habit: Preparing for COVID-related Litigation

When business resumes, we know with near-certainty that it will likely be a deluge. The legal fallout from the pandemic will be massive, and last for—years? A generation? The timeline is open for debate, but civil action resulting from insurance disputes, breaches of contract, malpractice claims, and consumer class action suits is already trickling in. Preserving, collecting, and processing virtual evidence in all the ways it’s being generated now, more than ever, as people attempt to stay connected (Zoom calls, video chats, hundreds of messaging platforms, social media) is crucial, as is the ability to scale up or down as needed, without sacrificing costs or speed.

New Habits, New Normal

Forming good work-from-home habits across your organization is admittedly a bit more complex than vowing to drink more water and get more sleep, but the payoffs are big. Setting your firm up for success is an end-to-end exercise in protection, collaboration, and innovation, starting with sound security practices for your remote teams, and ending with providing the right outcomes and highest-value services for your clients.