The COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to adapt quickly to unfamiliar circumstances, particularly when it came to their working policies and processes. Many law firms, in particular, had to adopt agile working practices in order to keep their doors open and service clients during lockdown periods.
As vaccine adoption rates rise and quarantines lift around the world, the temptation exists for these firms to simply revert to their pre-pandemic status quo. However, to do so would mean leaving a lot of advantages on the table. Firms stand to benefit from maintaining agile practices as society goes back to normal.
What are agile working practices?
An agile working policy means enabling employees to work wherever they are or need to be. This can be achieved not only through policies that allow employees to work remotely, but through digital infrastructure and tools that empower them to do so. For example, virtual private networks (VPNs) can enable them to access company networks and data in a secure way from anywhere with an internet connection. Alongside these are guiding frameworks regarding how to collaborate with colleagues remotely, and a culture that doesn’t measure performance based on working at certain times or a particular number of hours.
Benefits of agile working
One obvious benefit of agile working is the flexibility it gives to employees. Agile working has not only enabled them to cope with the extreme circumstances brought about by the pandemic, but in many cases has facilitated a healthy work-life balance. This is especially true for lawyers, who often work long hours and under high-stress environments. A better work-life balance, in turn, translates to higher engagement at work and improved outcomes.
The flexibility of agile working even extends beyond members of the firm toward the clients themselves, who now have more accessible communication channels with their lawyers besides traditional face-to-face meetings. They also get access to a wider range of expertise, not being limited to who’s available to meet them at a given time, and have support for a greater period of time, as firm members from different locations and time zones may be available to attend to their needs.
Another is the ability to leverage greater synergies between members of the firm. In an agile working environment, lawyers who had never collaborated before due to living in different cities can now easily do so. This fosters the exchange of ideas and facilitates innovation, as well as strengthening intra-firm ties. This also provides team members with more opportunities for professional and personal development, as they’re better able to learn from one another’s experiences.
What’s more, agile working could provide opportunities to reduce overhead costs. Some practices, such as Dentons, have been able to close two of their UK offices while retaining all the employees based out of those locations. The result is that the business is able to stay operational without the need to pay rent and maintenance costs for the two physical locations.
Things to keep in mind
Despite all these benefits, it bears keeping in mind that agile working does depend on a number of circumstances. For example, how equipped a practice is for switching permanently to an agile working model is dependent on how well the practice took to agile working during the pandemic. While many businesses managed to thrive during lockdown, others did not, and for those firms, a return to business-as-usual is likely a welcome relief.
Likewise, some employees take to agile working better than others. For instance, junior staff members who are more technology-literate get the hang of and benefit from it far more easily than older colleagues. The same is true of the client base. The demographics of a practice and its clients are thus important to consider when choosing whether to adopt agile working practices permanently.
The pandemic forced many practices to adopt agile working out of necessity, but from that necessity, innovation has been bred. Keep your practice on the cutting edge by calling Healthy IT.