Legal Services Brief

Advancing Your Law Firm’s Workplace Culture: Key Considerations for Your Return to Office and Better Preparing for the Future

by Ken Neal
August 4, 2021

For the past 15 months, most lawyers and legal staff have worked remotely due to the pandemic. With the availability of widespread vaccination protocols, law firms big and small are considering office reopening plans. Some would like—with safety a prime consideration—to eventually return to the pre-COVID status quo of being in the office full time. Others look to implement a hybrid model that offers the remote flexibility employees have become accustomed to during these unprecedented times. One important factor in all this is closely monitoring developments and guidelines related to the recent spike in COVID-19 Delta variant cases.

What Lies Ahead for the Legal Workforce

If these challenges are not enough, law firm senior leadership also will have to contend with the fact that not everyone is terribly eager to return to the office.

Above the Law recently polled more than 600 attorneys and staff members across hundreds of Biglaw and boutique law firms across the county to find out what lies ahead for the legal workforce in the wake of the pandemic. When asked what they are dreading most about a return to in-office work, respondents identified commuting (76.80%), work/life balance (57.19%), and professional dress code (35.25%) as the top three things they dreaded most.

On the positive side, even if forced to return to the office, there are some bright spots for those who have been mostly confined to their homes for over a year. In selecting choices to a question about what they are looking forward to most about a return to in-office work, respondents indicated that seeing colleagues in-person (59.85%), office resources (43.63%), and being out of the house (39.96%) were the top three things they were looking forward to the most about the return to in-office work.

Important when considering these and other responses is the fact that, based on our experience working with law firm clients, most firms maintained and enhanced their productivity during the COVID era. One legal professional quoted in the Above the Law article put it this way: “The last year proved that everyone at my law firm can do their jobs wonderfully without being in the office. The pandemic has changed our firm forever.”

One thing seems certain. Whatever strategy they adopt, it will be critical for firms to offer employees flexibility, top quality administrative support, and a positive workplace culture upon their return to whatever the new normal will be. To meet these and other goals, firms might consider teaming with an experienced service provider like Canon to leverage new approaches for supporting their staff, advancing their operations, and better preparing for the future. At Canon, we are especially concentrated on helping firms focus on two important approaches: 1. evolving their ability to leverage “anywhere operations” and, 2. advancing what we call the “legal workplace blueprint.”

Looking to Leverage Digitization and Automation

At the heart of anywhere operations is the idea of incorporating the best of the in-person office with the benefits and technology of remote work. To realize this vision, firm leaders are looking to leverage digitization and automation. Ultimately, it is about establishing new ways of working, regardless of location, while at the same time expanding workplace culture, collaboration, and flexibility.

This is where the right managed services partner can make an enormous impact. To be successful, anywhere operations need an effective services support team, automated workflows, and technology to empower varied forms of work. This technology could include mobile applications for submitting and tracking work-related requests or monitoring business documents anywhere across the workflow, as well as digitalization capabilities.

For example, a digitalization service such as Canon’s Digital Intake Center helps law firms digitize documents, providing staff with secure access to information in any work environment. This also drives faster, error-free delivery, which can have a huge impact on clients and increases opportunities to automate rote tasks that are more difficult to execute within an anywhere operations context.

Advancing the Legal Workplace Blueprint

At Canon we emphasize what we call the legal workplace blueprint to help guide firms in choosing, and working with, the right managed services partner. What key attributes should firms look for in their partner? Here are three elements to consider.

One is financial stability. This enables a services provider to invest in the training and development of both onsite staff and subject matter experts who will be crucial to providing top quality consulting, implementation, and other services.

Second is flexibility. Canon offers a flexible service delivery model that we see as critical to supporting a hybrid office solution. Our teams can be deployed onsite, offsite and/or offshore to support law firm operations with solutions ranging from document scanning to print/mail center management, records management and more.

A third important element to keep in mind is that a successful hybrid office solution requires a complex orchestration of critical factors. These include the right people leveraging the right technology that provides access to data and office services anyplace, anytime. Anything short of this will limit a service provider’s ability to deliver the widespread support and maximum business value that many firms need to succeed.

Legal professionals are at a crossroads; the direction they take in returning to post-COVID operations will reverberate for years to come. Leveraging the right partner can help you make a smoother transition now, and better prepare you for success in the days ahead.

(Note: Future articles on our theme of “advancing your firm’s workplace culture,” will offer additional approaches for advancing your operations and being better prepared to meet the challenges ahead. In the meantime, feel free to visit the Legal Services page of our website, where you can find valuable information and insights in the form of whitepapers, articles, case histories, and more.)

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