Embracing Change

Supporting people and improving your bottom line

Embracing Change

This is the time of year when many law firms, in-house legal departments, and governments set expectations for the contributions of their team members for the next 12 months. Project planning, business development, and contribution targets are all topics of analysis and discussion. More so than any other year in the recent past, changes to how we deliver legal services and from where is top of mind for everyone. Additionally, it is a time to assess your key resources and make strategic investments.

This is the year to consider working-from-home arrangements as “normal,” not just a pandemic response. Reports of increased productivity and satisfaction of many lawyers working from home can’t be ignored. Lawyers have shown that it is a viable way to practice law, meet the needs of clients and meet the contribution expectations of their firms or legal departments. Granted, this option doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, like those with children who are cared for at home or those who don’t have the space or security to do so. Where it does work, leaders of legal departments and firms would be wise to continue to enable this method. Move equipment into homes, add cameras for video calls, establish security protocols and train everyone. In addition to increased productivity and improved professional satisfaction, enabling a more permanent framework for working from home can reduce operational costs such as physical space requirements, which can be invested in technology or people.

The changes to service delivery have been embraced by many clients. Where the technology is strong on both the client and lawyer’s end, video calls are a successful replacement for in-person meetings and an improvement to communication by phone or email. Clients save time travelling into an office and the cost of parking. Each change, no matter how seemingly small, aggregates to improve the client’s impression of working with their lawyer, and their overall experience.

Digital adaptations are improving the bottom line. Clio’s 2020 Legal Trends Report advises that US firms using online payment systems experienced a 7-16% increase in revenue per lawyer in 2020 compared to 2019. Those using online payment systems also experienced an increase in case volumes as electronic payments would speed up the payment of up-front fees, particularly in circumstances where physical distancing requirements limited in-person contact. The report highlights the positive impact of several digital tools, and is well worth a read to be inspired and provide support to advocate for those investments in technology.

Back to the people in your workplace. As the experience of COVID-19 reminds us of our vulnerabilities and the importance of connections and relationships with each other, legal workplace leaders are re-examining how to support their legal teams. A cue can be taken from the words of Jordon Furlong in his November 2020 report to the Law Society of Alberta, Lawyer Licensing and Competence in Alberta:

Most people do not improve their competence and expand their capability by continuously absorbing criticism and enduring discipline…. Proficiency is generally achieved by receiving and responding to steady, constructive, and professional support and training.

Lawyers are not naturally qualified to provide this support, although some have learned how to provide it, and do it well. But, why not hire a professional? Lawyer coaches are well positioned to provide this support to lawyers at any stage of their career. Leading BC lawyer coaches — Allison Wolf, Linda Parsons, and Paula Price — have worked with CBABC members to support lawyers adjusting to new circumstances brought about by the pandemic, young lawyers striving for the next level of competency, and experienced lawyers taking on new challenges. Whether it is coaching, strategic education, or a sabbatical, investing in your people will always yield good results.

A new year with new goals and opportunities. CBABC looks forward to helping you make the most of it.