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jsamson@northstar-change.com

Why change? Should law firms change……?

Change in the workplace is hard and many businesses prefer stability and predictability rather than any kind of disruptive change. But it is a proven fact that without change our people cannot grow and our business cannot become more competitive. We cannot reach our full potential if we are not constantly tweaking our goals, questioning our capability to do more and do better, and changing how we do things to match the changing trends in the world and in our industry.

The world arounds us is constantly evolving and almost every day we are assaulted with new technological innovations, new ideas and changing customer demands. Businesses need to always be agile and ready to adopt and adapt to the changing needs of the clients they serve. And the COVID-19 pandemic brought home this need in the most epic way.

The legal industry has been set in its ways for years with change happening very slowly. If it was technology, processes or attitudes, all of it changed slowly or never at all. But 2020 made many law firms realize that they had to do things differently if they were to survive and ensure the safety of their people.

Need for technology

More than ever, the pandemic bought home the fact that many law firms were lagging far behind in technology.  Effective August 1, 2020, the Ontario commissioning legislation permitted the practice of remote commissioning. This led all law firms to adopt video conferencing technology that would allow them to continue working. The Ontario Court of Justice limited in-person attendance in the courthouse and encouraged the use of remote technology wherever possible. More and more lawyers recognized the freedom technology afforded them to work from any place that had a computer and internet connection. The need to have a good technological network became even be important with the government’s stay at home order, which had many employees working from home. Online meetings through tele/video conferencing have become the new norm with many employees preferring to work from the comfort of their home.

Legal Software

The marketplace for law practice management software has never been so competitive with a huge array of software available to suit different needs. When PC Law increased its maintenance charges by a huge margin, many law firms found themselves with no other option than to pay it or go without support. Coupled with poor customer care and technical support, PC Law|Time Matters is considered a dead software and many law firms have begun the search for a better more cost-effective software. The introduction of cloud-based technology is taking many firms away from the traditional server-based data storage and usage. Cloud-based technology allows lawyers and employees to access cases, files and contracts from anywhere in the world as long as they have an internet connection. This has become very useful during the pandemic with many lawyers working from far away locations and experiencing very little need to be in the office.

Process Changes

Many law firms find themselves stuck in processes that are outdated but no one wants to change those processes because they work. And why change some-thing that works! But looking at the ‘how it is done’ part of work is important because there is always a better way to do something. Encouraging employees to think creatively about the processes they follow and share their ideas is a great practice and though not all ideas can be implemented, many processes can be made more useful and valuable through constantly tweaking and analyzing it. With the pandemic, many accounting clerks found it hard to find cheque signers as none of the signatories were in the office. So, the process of requesting and signing cheques had to be done electronically and many firms introduced eSignatures as an option for signing agreements and other documents.

Employee Attitude

Any change initiative has a direct impact on employees. Either they resist it or they are open to it. Depending on what is changing, the people aspect of change is a very important one. Change happens one person at a time and no organization can successfully change without its people changing. Introducing a new business model, changing software or process, moving to a new office location, opening a new branch or even merging with another organization, all of it directly affects employees who now have to do things differently, set up new process, learn a different software and maybe report to a new manager or supervisor. Neglecting this aspect of change can cause many good change initiatives to fail, but a well-organized and well-managed change initiative can lead to high employee morale, productivity and autonomy.

Client Expectations

Client’s expectations are changing and many clients today expect transparency, efficiency and cost-effectiveness from legal firms.  The traditional lawyer-client relationship is undergoing many changes and clients today expect more from that relationship than ever before. Many law firms are offering productized pricing to their clients in order to make their services more affordable and custom made to their client’s needs. The millennial generation, those who were born between 1980 and 2000, are the present and future clients and law firms need to understand the unique characteristics and needs of this customer. Millennials expect instant gratification, expect to be connected with their attorneys online, and will usually shop around for the best offer. Firms that don’t understand this generation and adapt their offerings accordingly can expect to lose them.

Finally

It is clear that the benefits of change far outnumber the risk of not changing, not innovating. Firms that are quick to embrace new trends in the industry are firms that are evolving and growing, their employee’s skill set also changing to match the changing needs of their organization. Law firms have traditionally shied away from being leaders of innovation in the industry, preferring to maintain the status quo, but it is very clear that those who will survive a post-pandemic rapidly changing world are those law firms who will innovate and adapt.

If you have any questions or any comments, I would love to hear from you. Let me know what you think.

About the Author

About the Author

Jessica Samson, MBA, CHRP, C. Mgr.

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