Technological advances are fostering an empowered new stream of mobile workers. Failure to modernize a legal practice by investing in mobile technology can cause a practice to stagnate and lose its ability to compete in a fast paced world. Through the use of cutting edge strategies, a legal practice can reduce costs, increase employee satisfaction, and promote global expansion. Below is a look at some of the challenges facing legal practices and the specific ways that technology is revolutionizing the legal profession.
Assessing the Challenges and Goals of Legal Practices
The success and growth of a legal practice are both tied to a firm’s ability to continue to thrive in a rapidly changing environment. Practice managers are faced with the competing tasks of expanding the scope of their practice while maintaining employee satisfaction and controlling expenses. Below is a look at some of the goals of a medium to large legal practice:
- Reduced Operating Costs: Lowering operating expenses is always a primary goal for a legal practice. Between growing increases in recruiting costs and overall spending, legal practices are facing growing budgetary pressures. For instance, recruitment expenses for law firms in Australia rose 17.5% and benefits increased by 4.7% in 2015.
- Optimized Employee Efficiency: Lawyers are increasingly faced with a mounting number of large projects with too little time to complete them. Maximizing efficiency is critical to a law firm’s ability to respond to growing client demands.
- International Expansion: Global expansion is an excellent way to bolster profitability for legal practices of all sizes. According to Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor, law firms with a global focus enjoyed significant increases in profit between 2013 and 2015. International expansion also requires legal practices to meet jurisdictional requirements for each new location.
- Expansion of Services Offered: Diversification of legal services has enabled many law firms to continue to sustain profits in spite of fluctuations in specific market demands. A broader portfolio of services also contributes to increased client satisfaction due to a firm’s ability to respond to a wider range of legal needs.
- The Ability to Respond Immediately to Client Requests: Responsiveness is the key to client satisfaction in virtually every field, including the legal profession. Clients increasingly expect prompt support from their lawyers. Failure to respond quickly to client demands can lead to client frustration and can contribute to the development of a poor reputation in the legal community.
- Keeping Lawyers Engaged and Interested in Continuing Legal Education: Continuing legal education is important for the professional development of every attorney in Australia. Unfortunately, it is an area that is often placed on a law firm’s back burner. Developing strategies to stimulate lawyers’ interest in ongoing learning is critical to the future success of a legal practice.
How Mobility and Technology Foster Growth and Success for a Law Firm
Mobile legal teams are increasing in prevalence across Australia due to their ability to reduce costs and promote efficiency. Below are six key ways that technical innovation in the workplace is reshaping the legal profession:
1) The use of mobile technology helps to reduces expenses for legal practices. Practice managers seeking ways to control costs should consider the ways that working outside of the confines of an office can help reduce expenses for a legal practice:
- Office space costs are lowered because fewer large offices are needed
- Transportation costs are reduced due to the elimination of daily commutes
- Office overhead costs are reduced as less electricity is used
2) Lawyers are able to be more efficient. 90% of Australians spend at least 90 minutes per day commuting to and from work. When that time is added to time spent traveling to meet with clients, the results can be staggering. By eliminating an automatic commute to and from an office every day, attorneys can devote another 7-8 hours per week to meeting the needs of their clients.
3) Higher levels of satisfaction are present in employees who are not tied to an office. Studies show that a mobile workforce is typically a happier workforce. Higher levels of satisfaction lead to greater levels of attorney retention.
4) The ability for employees to work remotely promotes global expansion. Fostering employee mobility is a must for legal practices that are considering expanding into international markets. The ability for lawyers to work remotely during non-traditional hours promotes communication with clients that was previously a challenge due to distance challenges and time zone differences.
5) Responsiveness is improved with technological mobility. Traditional workforces in Australia tend to have a defined window of time during which they respond to client inquiries and needs. This can lead to helplessness and frustration among clients who require urgent support outside traditional work hours. Legal practices that embrace mobility promote responsiveness to clients because lawyers are able to access their computers and client data anytime and from any location.
6) Mobile online learning programs keep lawyers engaged. Employees who are able to work from their homes or offsite often engage in training and development activities through an online learning management system (LMS). The advantages of an online learning system over traditional conference room training include the following:
- Lawyers can engage in learning at any time from any location
- Online learning is cost-effective. A conference room and travel are not required.
- Lawyers can learn at their own pace, spending more time on challenging areas.
Barriers to Adapting Innovative Technology
In spite of all of the advantages offered by mobile technology, there is often resistance among law firms to the idea of transitioning from a traditional workforce to a work environment that is more modern and flexible. In general, resistance tends to stem from skepticism and a lack of familiarity with the benefits of working on the road or from home. Below is a look at the top barriers to adopting a mobile workforce:
- General skepticism: For some legal practice managers, the concept of lawyers doing their jobs outside of a traditional office environment is simply too overwhelming to grasp. The fear of change and a lack of familiarity with the advantages of a mobile workforce override a desire for innovation and efficiency.
- Initial Costs: Despite the fact that conducting business from home reduces many operating costs, law firm managers may balk at the need to invest in mobile technology for employees.
- Fear of the inability to control workers: One of the greatest concerns related to employees working offsite is the worry that attorneys will not work as hard if they are not within eyesight of management.
- Cyber-security worries: With attorneys becoming increasingly dependent on their mobile devices, there is growing concern about cyber threats, invasion of privacy, and fraud.
- Lack of Support from stakeholders: Transitioning to a mobile workforce requires the buy-in and support of management, attorneys and stakeholders. The financial and moral support of stakeholders is critical to the success of a mobile workforce.
Seeking a Solution that Breaks Down the Barriers to Innovation
There is good news for legal practices that are considering the transition to a more technologically advanced work environment. Practice managers are able to effectively address key barriers to working remotely by seeking a robust package of cloud hosted services. By enlisting the support of an experienced cloud-based solution provider, legal practices can achieve their goals and maintain a competitive edge by mobilizing their workforces.
When evaluating cloud-based solution providers, managers of legal practices should seek a company with a proven track record of success, longevity in the field of cloud-based services, and the ability to provide services on a local and international scale. This combination of attributes serves as a recipe for support to growing legal practices as they make the transition to become more flexible employers in Australia.