Law firms, large and small, are starting to see the benefits of embracing flexible work arrangements to help improve the work-life balance for employees.
The legal industry may not be at the forefront of flexible working, but it is growing fast, especially in mid-tier law firms. Research from the Australian Financial Review partnership survey found that 10 percent of the 3100 partners surveyed work part-time or have flexible hours, this has grown by 100 since last year.
Flexible working arrangements can include altering the hours of work, patterns of work (such as job-sharing, part-time work), and locations of work (like working from home). These practices have been shown to help maximise an employee’s productivity and wellbeing, in turn providing better results for their employer. Flexible workplace practices can greatly assist lawyers to balance their work responsibilities with pursuits and priorities outside of the workplace, like caring for family.
For many industries, these flexible working practices don’t pose a significant change to their working environment, but for many law firms where the traditional model favours presenteeism and long office hours, this is a significant shift in the mindset of partners and the physical set-up of the technology systems in the workplace.
Technology to enable flexibility
If you are trying to keep employees that work from home connected, a new wave of technology has been created to help keep your lawyers, administration staff and clients connected. 70 percent of communication is non-verbal, so remote-based workers often miss out on cues received from facial expressions, voice tones, and eye contact. This becomes even more important when you are discussing sensitive issues, such as HR discussions.
Sharing documents in real-time
If you need to make sure everyone is on the same page, literally, then being able to share content in real-time is a must. With the right video conferencing solution, it is easy to screen share and maintain the integrity of the video call, giving you complete control over how and when your content is shared.
Future proofing communication for younger staff
Even law firms aren’t immune to the changing communication practices of Millennials, (people born between 1980 and 2000). For younger generations, chat through instant message is the norm and often the medium they are most comfortable communicating through. By adopting technology that enables one-to-one instant messaging, group chats, and the ability to escalate any chat to a video call, staff will be more productive and collaborate with ease.
Things to avoid when selecting a new collaboration tool:
- Investing in a complicated system
One of the biggest barriers to effectively implementing a system that uses video, voice, and instant messaging is ensuring that it is intuitive and easy to use for your staff, suppliers and clients. If your staff find it complicated or are required to use a number of systems and devices, adoption will be low. In terms of collaborating with your team and clients, make sure you invest in a tool that provides you with guest logins and integrates with your clients’ existing video conferencing systems, as many of the free web conferencing solutions won’t enable you to do this.
- Purchasing separate systems for video, voice, and chat
By investing in a single system for your video, voice, and chat needs, you will save time and money by not having to pay for, install, manage and use three separate systems.
- Using a system not optimized for compliance or security
Invest in a system that offers simple, reliable and fully-secure communication and collaboration within the law firm or chambers. It is important that you select a provider that ensures you keep control of any messages shared and has the ability to quickly remove an employee’s access when they leave. This is vital given the confidential nature of the legal industry, and the professional requirement to protect client information.
- Using free systems
Does your free platform enable you to share content in real-time, collaborate with multiple parties, guarantee call quality and offer ease of use for your team and clients? These things may not matter for a personal call, but when you are speaking with your clients and administration staff, you need a system you can rely on, with features and quality that reflect your brand. Making a call easy for a client makes a great first impression and indicates that you will be easy to work with, and can collaborate anytime, anywhere.
- No ongoing service agreement
Whether it is poor performance or unexplained service downtime, with a free service, you can’t expect any level of support. Clearly, this is a major difference from paid services that provide a high level of support and full redundancy, and can have a profound impact on your ability to do business.