All of us who work in the legal industry were forced into a work from home model in early-2020, virtually overnight, and suddenly found ourselves replacing in-person meetings with Zoom. It was a paradigm shift that had been quietly underway for years but accelerated with breathtaking speed.
Last year was a maelstrom of change—which of course also swept up Legal Lab, HBR Consulting’s annual gathering of leaders from some of the nation’s top law departments and law firms. Rather than the two-day, in-person event that HBR usually hosts, last year Legal Lab turned into as a series of five virtual sessions across multiple weeks.
It seems like everything was different in 2020—including Legal Lab, HBR Consulting’s sixth annual gathering of leaders from some of the nation’s top law departments and law firms. In place of the two-day, in-person event that HBR has hosted in the past, we reinvented Legal Lab as a series of five virtual sessions that unfolded across multiple weeks.
Everything was different in 2020, and Legal Lab, HBR Consulting’s sixth annual gathering of leaders from some of the nation’s top law departments and law firms, was no exception. Instead of the usual two-day, in-person event we have hosted in the past, last year HBR reinvented Legal Lab as a series of five virtual sessions that unfolded across multiple weeks.
Today’s fast-changing client expectations and legal practice demands are forcing law firms to adapt their internal operations for how they will conduct business in the future. These operational changes require agile transformation across the three areas of people, processes and technology. In short, there are now more specialized skills needed to support and operate the newly defined roles, more interconnections between various law firm capabilities, and more technology needed to support user activity across the organization. This evolution in law firm operations calls for a common reference point that can serve as a quick-look guide for the firm’s professionals and leaders. This sort of reference framework can help provide a clear understanding of the firm’s internal operations and processes, including key client touch points.
Recently, we have seen a remarkably fast uptake in law firms’ adoption of Microsoft Teams as their preferred collaboration platform. In fact, it is not a stretch to predict that it is no longer a matter of if law firms will implement Teams, but when they will do so. And while there has been a lot of messaging around implementing and using Teams in the legal industry, there has been nothing about the real work that is required for governance and compliance. Implementing, provisioning and managing Microsoft Teams is only part of what needs to be done. Teams is complex and, as a preliminary step, it is important for law firms to develop the appropriate policies, procedures and controls within Microsoft Office 365 to ensure they are ready for a secure and compliant Teams roll-out.
Effective people management in law firm IT requires that both the firm and the employees benefit. The law firm maximizes the effectiveness and efficiency of their internal IT talent and the valued professionals on the IT team have an opportunity to develop the skills that will advance their careers. A growing number of medium to large law firms are discovering that a proven human capital model that can allow both the firm and its IT employees to flourish is to partner with an expert services provider that assumes operational responsibility for some or all of the firm’s core IT systems and operations.
The world has changed since the pandemic and effective lockdown were implemented, highlighting the need for law firm IT functions to be prepared for adverse situations. The sudden change we are experiencing has ushered in a host of new concerns and responsibilities for law firm IT leadership, not the least of which is cost management. Some law firm IT leaders have found themselves locked into some vendor contracts, with their associated costs and reduced flexibility. As law firm IT leaders plan for 2021 and beyond, exercising strong vendor governance principles can help them better address the current downturn and be prepared for future economic fluxes.
The summer is beginning to wind down and our Law Firm Librarian Summer Camp series is coming to a close. What better way to end the summer than with one of camp's great traditions? Grab your snacks and your sweater, because it’s time to gather around the virtual campfire for a ghost story. This one is called “The Ghost of Print.”
During these unprecedent times, in-house legal teams are facing increasing pressure to be agile, nimble and responsive to the changing market dynamics. Whether the company is experiencing a hard hit to the bottom line or a sudden boom in demand, it is inevitable that nearly all law departments will be challenged to defend budget and staffing plans or do more with less to keep up with the evolving new normal.