A New Way of Working Inspired
Guy Phillips, General Manager EMEA, NetDocuments, says choice is driving change to the standard legal business operational and working model
The past six months has undoubtedly been a catalyst for change, from budgeting to technology, process to workplace premises – and the biggest outcome of lockdown is the significantly greater choice given to people about where they work. According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2019 only 30% of UK employees ever worked from home. This has meant firms – and their clients – that are unused to this way of working have had to adapt quickly. For the legal sector, this is particularly true – as an industry traditionally office-based, lockdown has been a tipping point for modernisation.
Firms are emphasising that given the right toolkit – a mix of technology and culture – they can fully offer choice and flexibility to the workforce to work in a way that inspires them. For example, homeworking can provide a better work/life balance – something some lawyers have struggled to maintain over the years. In fact, research from Hitachi Capital has found over 60% of legal employees saying they want to continue working from home after the three months of lockdown. It’s also clear that having the technology in place for staff to work from home effectively is important for attracting and retaining the next generation of talent.
However, firms that are unable to lay the foundations for supporting choice risk falling behind the competition. And a failure to move to more flexible ways of working could risk damaging employee productivity and retention.
Busting the on-premises myth
So, how can the legal sector ensure it can facilitate this new way of working, both now and long into the future? With employees demanding anytime access to information, adopting the latest cloud and software as a service (SaaS) solutions should be a pre-requisite for law firms that want to be more agile and secure.
However, many are still tied to hybrid-cloud or on-premises systems. Security and compliance concerns have led the industry to believe they’re more secure because data could only be accessed in one location. Although it may feel safer to store data on-premises, it is a false sense of security in the age of cybercrime. Recent research from Gartner predicts that public cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS) workloads will encounter at least 60% fewer security incidents than those housed in traditional data centres.
Not only are true cloud platforms more secure and flexible, they also require a lot less management, meaning IT and the business can focus more on client service when it is more important than ever.
Mitigating the security risks of shadow IT
Since the Panama Papers leak of 11.5 million documents detailing confidential information, the legal sector has become increasingly aware of the financial and reputational damage data breaches can cause. So, firms have generally been prepared when it comes to ensuring compliance with data protection legislation, such as GDPR.
However, external, and internal threats won’t disappear. And working from home has brought added vulnerabilities. For instance, data could be unprotected as employees may be using personal or family members’ devices to work on. Therefore, data protection and encryption should be at the core of remote working in the legal sector, with firms having complete control over data privacy and regulatory compliance, but with no impact on productivity or performance.
However, for regulated industries such as legal, many collaboration tools aren’t fit for purpose, as they don’t provide the necessary levels of security for sensitive documents and don’t integrate with specialist service line applications. For full support, firms must ensure employees are equipped with the right tools for the job. Otherwise, no matter the security measures in place, ‘shadow IT’ can remain a threat – where existing systems prevent employees from easily storing and sharing documents, forcing them to use personal email and cloud storage services.
Employees need document and email management tools that enhance rather than hinder the way they work – more than just an aesthetically pleasing interface. To ensure adoption, tools must truly integrate with the day-to-day life of employees and work natively within applications they’re familiar using. In addition, whether using a web interface or mobile application, employees should be able to work on documents from home as they would in the office.
Attracting a wider pool of talent
Equipping staff with the right technology for the job is also key to retaining and attracting the next generation. Research from Capita shows over three-quarters of workers say technology is a factor in their career choices. They want the flexibility to work remotely, and without the right tools, or with a poor user experience, unproductive people will be at risk of leaving the business.
Having the technology in place to support homeworking can also open up a wider pool of talent, as location becomes less of a consideration when hiring. As three months in lockdown has irrevocably changed working practices, firms can now concentrate on finding people with the most relevant skills rather than attracting talent into the City.
A shift in mindset
Technology clearly has a role to play in ensuring law firms’ employees can successfully work from home and keep up with the changing risk landscape. However, this also requires a change in mindset. Once law firms have the technology and infrastructure in place to support remote working, they must ensure they have the culture to fully embrace it. The legal industry is built upon years of tradition, so adapting to this change may take some time. However, as lockdown has proved, businesses need to be quick to adapt, so it’s now up to the legal sector to enable a more inspiring model of working and gain the trust to make it work in practice.
This article appeared in the Briefing magazine. Please click here to see the full publication.