Around the world, industries have had to adapt to the “new normal” in 2020, adjusting to mass remote working and reassessing security. The legal sector is one such industry that has seen many firms entirely alter their way of working.
The legal industry has always favoured the traditional office, with large spaces, meeting rooms, and a hub of lawyers. However, the initial lockdown, caused by COVID-19, pushed many legal firms into a fast and immediate response. A gradual and phased implementation is typically the case when it comes to new territories, such as mass home working, however, this luxury was not afforded to many businesses in 2020, who had to react quickly to ensure that employees could competently and securely work from home. Despite a number of challenges presenting themselves, the industry has learnt, adapted, and responded to the situation.
Challenges For Legal
Remote working has been a commonplace term for many years, with some firms having spent years and large amounts of money ensuring that some employees were able to work from home prior to 2020. As a result, for some, it was just a case of scaling this to encompass the entire company when lockdown hit. Undoubtedly, however, this will have not been the case for some firms – in an unprecedentedly short space of time, businesses had to adapt and utilise all IT resources available to them to get legal employees working from home capably.
Despite the legal sector often being tarred with the brush of being “behind the times”, firms have leapt to the challenge, providing IT with the necessary tools to enable home working. In fact, COVID-19 can be touted as responsible for driving innovation, forcing the enterprise to embrace new technology.
So whilst the move to mass home working may have been unplanned, in the long-term it could prove to be extremely beneficial for the technological advancements of many law firms.
An Adjustment For Employees
The legal industry has always favoured working from the office, meaning that many lawyers and other employees have had to adjust to a new way of working. Whilst there were initial teething issues, lockdown has converted many. 77% of legal employees have said that, despite lockdown, they are able to work effectively from home.
The initial few weeks saw a rise in calls and emails to help desks, however, these initial problems were solved quickly by IT teams who were also learning and adapting to a new working environment.
The sudden upheaval to remote working has been extremely costly for many firms. Desktop computers are not an uncommon sight, meaning that many employees did not have the luxury of picking up their work laptop and taking it home. Supplying laptops, desktops, additional screens and more was a costly but necessary endeavour.
However, not everyone has been so fortunate. 17% of legal employees are using a personal laptop or desktop computer whilst working from home. Such a high number opens up an organisation to a range of attack vectors and puts highly sensitive corporate data at risk.
Home Connectivity Problems
Prior to lockdown, the majority of employees’ home broadband dealt with mundane requirements such as occasional video streaming. Mass remote working has changed this in a big way.
With the entire family unit in lockdown, a lawyer working from home may have to contend for bandwidth with games consoles, TV’s, smart devices, other family members working from home and more. Crucially, however, they are still on the same home network as before, which often results in slow and laggy connections. Many businesses spent a great deal of money ensuring that office Wi-Fi provides users with the fastest connectivity possible, yet home networks are simply not enterprise-ready. Organisations cannot account for where their employees live – those in rural countryside areas are reporting serious issues with connectivity that are struggling to be resolved. Find out more about the challenges we’re seeing users face when it comes to home connectivity problems.
Too Many Collaboration Tools
An in-person meeting was often the solution for when employees needed to get together to brainstorm and discuss. With the ability to do this removed by lockdown, employees turned to the tools available to them to continue to collaborate with their team members. Firms adopted varying collaboration platforms, including the likes of Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams. However, different organisations found varying success with these tools, and the sheer variety of tools is often overwhelming. Many organisations who didn’t specifically identify to employees the tools to use are now dealing with Shadow IT, as employees take it upon themselves to find the software and platforms to enable them to do their job.
The Future of Legal
A return to the office, prior to a vaccine being developed, seems unlikely. As a result, firms must look ahead to 2021, and what the future of working in legal will look like. Whilst predicting this is near-impossible given ever-changing guidelines and fluctuations in COVID-19 cases, businesses can learn from current events. Remote working has proved a hit within legal and wider industries as a whole, and many firms are reacting accordingly. Even post-lockdown, 86% of UK employees want to continue working from home for at least one day a week, suggesting that the future of working could see a much more flexible approach in relation to office working. 71% of UK employees still believe that their company should retain an office however, citing team culture, collaboration, meetings and team socialisation. Some legal firms may choose to downsize their office space as a result, ensuring that employees still have a physical workplace, whilst enabling a work from home culture and reducing overheads.
On the other hand, with employees now working from home for the foreseeable future, firms have been presented with the perfect opportunity to do an office refresh. The boom in video meetings may mean that, upon returning to the office, current Wi-Fi will be unable to keep up with demand. With employees out of the way, some law firms are now implementing new Wi-Fi that can keep up with the demands of a post-lockdown world.
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